Keeping The Workplace Safe, Part 1

Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED |

CHICAGO — Workplace violence is far too common; it seems like there’s a news report about a shooting rampage daily. Someone often knows about the killer’s emotional problems or violent tendencies, but does nothing. Are people afraid to get involved? Is society reluctant to profile those who might be a threat to others for the sake of individual rights?
The idea that it might happen in my business terrifies me. Every time I bring on a new employee, I remember that I can terminate the person within 30 days if there are any signs of attitude problems. The 30-day trial period, though, seems just short enough for most workers to stay out of trouble and achieve eligibility for unemployment.
A policy manual is essential to a successful employee/employer relationship. Get the employee to sign a form saying they received a handbook. If the 30-day period passes and trouble begins, start documenting.
We recently had a female employee who developed attitude problems after about six months. Her first write-up came after she shoved another woman and abused her verbally. The company manual says I won’t fire anyone until a second incident happens, and it did. She shoved the same woman again, and exchanged foul words with her. Customers could hear screaming and swearing. My son and I tried to calm her down, but I finally told her to go home for the day.
She came in two days later as if nothing had happened. She ignored the discipline report and said she had done nothing wrong. I had to fire her for the safety of the other woman involved.
She filed for unemployment. After filing documentation with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), I received a determination of no misconduct. I protested, and an adjudicator determined that the woman had been guilty of misconduct, denying her benefits. She filed a counterprotest, however, and the decision was reversed.
In hindsight, I guess I should have called 911 and filed a police report. If this kind of thing happens again, I will let the police sort out the problem and make the official report.
I recently received a statement concerning the woman’s unemployment benefits, and it offered another chance to appeal. I resubmitted my documentation, stating that my only wish is to not see my unemployment rates go up for doing something I felt necessary. The matter is still pending.

About the author

Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED

Norco Cleaners


Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED, is a charter member of EPA’s NEPT program and chairman of the Illinois Alternative Solvents Coalition. Spomar operates Norco Cleaners, 1320 E. Dolton Ave., Dolton, IL 60419; phone, 708-841-6220; fax, 708-841-6222. E-mail [email protected].


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