COVID-19’s increasing impact on workplace violence

As seen on: National Retail Federation

By: Mia Weinand

In Greg Murphy’s 25-year career as a loss prevention and human resources practitioner, no year has presented as many challenges as 2020. From physical altercations over mask-wearing and frustration-based vandalism and property crime to an uptick in issues with the transient population, Murphy has quickly adjusted policies and practices to keep his employees at United Pacific’s gas and convenience stores safe.

Murphy began looking into United Pacific’s workplace violence policies at the beginning of the year, updating them to match what he predicted would be an increasingly volatile environment. These updated policies not only give employees guidelines on reducing their own bad behavior, but also what they should do if they see workplace violence or become victims of it themselves. Murphy strongly suggests that all LP professionals have these guidelines in place for their employees.

Cortez shares details of an incident when a McDonald’s employee was assaulted by a customer when the employee asked the man to put on a mask. The situation led Cortez and his team to re-evaluate how employees approach non-mask wearers; McDonald’s employees now address mask issues from behind the counter to ensure a barrier between them and a potential physical altercation.

Both Murphy and Cortez emphasize the importance of properly placed cameras in stores, especially in vulnerable places, which let management and associates assess the situation and provide recordings to law enforcement if needed. Utilizing technology is strongly encouraged to reduce the need for employee interference in potentially harmful situations. “Technology is replaceable,” Murphy says. “Human life is not.”

Murphy and Cortez offer a few key takeaways to help their fellow LP associates:

  • Educate employees
  • Leverage technology, as opposed to putting employees into bad situations
  • Look for simple and creative solutions to address concerns, including trying solutions again if they didn’t work before
  • Utilize your peers, be part of associations, and network; your peers may have solutions you didn’t think of before