Workplace Violence Complaints Against a Nevada Assembly Member Illustrates Trends

I suspect that Nevada residents wish that the saying “What happens In Vegas stays in Vegas” applied to the embarrassing saga occurring in their State Assembly.

My reason for starting this Blog was to have a way to alert clients about trends and patterns involving OSHA and employment law concerns.  One of my primary themes has been employees increased recognition of their “rights,” and their willingness to complain about their violation, or for any perceived retaliation against them for making complaints.  These attitudes have contributed to both the explosion of whistleblower claims and to  new employee concerns.

Add To the Mix,  Concern About Workplace Violence

Probably because of the focus on the Newtown school tragedy and the current debate about how to deter public violence, we are now seeing  an increase in claims asserting that the employee was retaliated against for complaining about the threat of workplace violence,  including by the boss himself.  Hopefully you read my recent post about “Cussing Your Employees Can Get You Sued By OSHA.”  Similarly, this week saw an OSHA whistleblower suit against a Montana Dairy Queen for allegedly firing an employee for complaining about fears of workplace violence.

Fears of Workplace Violence + OSHA = a Nevada Assembly Member

Well not exactly, but the bizarre events unfolding in Nevada provide insight into the increasing complications posed by employee safety concerns, and the rise of workplace violence as one of those concerns.  Employees in The State Assembly  complained to Nevada OSHA that an Assembly member posed a threat.  OSHA sent a Complaint Letter and the Nevada Assembly responded with a four page letter.   

From the Nevada Appeal:

The response by (the Assembly) came just hours before Assembly Majority Leader William Horne announced that Brooks had been banned from the building pending resolution of the situation — a move that helps resolve the complaint. Combs said officers met Brooks at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Monday night when he arrived from Las Vegas and served him with notice he was no longer allowed in the Legislative Building.

In his response to OSHA, (the Assembly) said the case isn’t like most other complaints about an employee being a danger to co-workers.

“It is important to recognize that Assemblyman Brooks is an elected official and not an employee of the LCB or of the Nevada Assembly,” he wrote. “Therefore, he cannot be fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined in the same manner as an employee.”

Brooks understands that some employees are concerned about reports of his behavior and voluntarily agreed to certain measures to ease those concerns, Combs said. Those, according to the letter, are that a Legislative Police officer accompany him when he is in the building. His key-card has been deactivated so he can’t enter the Legislative Building after hours without contacting Legislative Police.

Action Points

1.     Read the Nevada new sites… much better than those horrid reality TV shows!

2.     Review your job sites for workplace violence concerns, especially if you are in healthcare, 24-hour settings such as convenience stores and hotels, or if you send employees to work alone at remote job sites or at customer locations.

3.     Take seriously employee concerns and complaints, even if they may seem unreasonable.  Professionally respond to them.

4.     If the complaint is wacky, then be careful.  You may have an employee on your hands who won’t accept your answer and may tempt you to fire them.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in cultural changes, discipline and discharge, emergency response, generational differences, government inspections, harassment, hospitality, workplace violence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Workplace Violence Complaints Against a Nevada Assembly Member Illustrates Trends

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