#HRHorrorStories – Day 2 – Bathrooms, Bomb Threats & HR Safety

Shining-Nicholson_2381314bIf you have worked in HR, you have had your share of stories that most people will never believe. Day 2 of Drive Thru HR’s #HRHorrorStories reminded many people of this fact but also the lessons we learn from each other.

Our first story involved an employee injury that took place in the company restroom. Unfortunately, while bending over to pick up a pen the employee struck his head on the toilet paper dispenser which resulted in a gash in his forehead requiring stitches. Thankfully he reported it to HR right away and the HR Manager was able to detail the report to include photos of the employee’s injury as well as the scene of the accident. Of course, when Workers Comp saw the claim, they questioned it.

Let’s face it – accidents will happen regardless of how many precautions are taken. But as embarrassing as such incidents are, it is important to remind employees that all accidents must be reported right away so that 1) they receive any needed medical attention immediately and 2) so that witnesses can be questions and the incident investigated to collect as much detail as possible so that all information is available should a Workers Comp claim be questioned. In most cases, Workers Comp carriers require that you file a report with them within 24 hours of the incident. The longer you wait to file the report, the more the validity of the claim starts to come into question…mainly: did the incident REALLY happen at work or is the employee just trying to claim it did?

Our second story involved an employee calling in a bomb threat. Why? Because he arrived at work slightly intoxicated and simply did not want to work, so thought it would get everyone out of having to work that night. The employee didn’t expect that his call would be recorded when he called 911 or that they would be able to trace it back to the instead of the facility. The shutdown of the facility while they searched it for a bomb did get the employee and his co-workers out of work for a few hours…but ended up costing him his job and his co-workers overtime they could have earned for that week.

We can definitely file this one under “stupid things employees do” but have you had employees show up to work intoxicated? Have you ignored it and let them work anyway? Alcohol is a mood altering substance that affects the part of the brain responsible for self-control. While everyone knows your reactions slow, you may see someone unable to walk upright or their speech be slurred, the real issue is that drinking can invoke stronger than usual emotional responses…usually causing people to become more tearful or aggressive. An employee who is intoxicated is just as dangerous if they are not operating equipment as if they are…and that is where some managers do turn a blind eye. All judgment becomes impaired due to alcohol and if you suspect an employee has been drinking, its best for everyone involved to have a conversation with them and send them home for the day without penalty.

Stress causes a lot of people to pick up habits such as drinking as a temporary relief and those same people may not realize they have become or on the road to becoming an alcoholic as a result. Check with your Health Insurance provider about some of the free seminars that may offer as part of your plan and have them come out to do a presentation to your employees on the effects of alcohol and drugs…as a reminder.

Our last story was one that many HR folks have experienced at least once in their career and that is threats of violence from a recently separated employee. We don’t train managers or HR folks on how to handle such incidents in the workplace because so many companies don’t believe that its a real problem but you will notice from so many news stories over the past year that this type of situation is happening more and more. Thankfully, the HR Manager kept a cool head and was able to call a co-worker while on speakerphone and ask her to call the police which caused the disgruntled ex-employee to leave.

What are the tips we tell people to use when having to terminate an employee:

1) Never hold the meeting alone – always have another person in the room. Typically your best choices are to have HR and the immediate supervisor in the room.

2) Try to hold the meeting in an open area but distanced from the other employees. A conference room is a top choice because its usually more open space and located close enough to the exit that the ex-employee doesn’t have to walk through the facility on their last walk out.

3) If you are going to hold the meeting in your office, position you desk so that you have the ability to exit the room if the ex-employee tries to come at you or block your way.

We can’t prevent every possible situation that may occur with an employee or in the workplace, but sometimes its just taking that step back to evaluate your environment and take a look at your best practices to see what precautions you can take right now.

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