Every so often, I like to reach out to a random reader of this blog to get their feedback on what I’m doing right (everything) and what I could improve upon (my arms). Yesterday, I spoke with a reader who mentioned that she liked the posts where I table the legal mumbo jumbo and just talk about me.

Unfortunately, however, we lawyers have no egos and rarely like to talk about ourselves. But, because it’s Friday, and in the spirit of narcisism charity, I’m going to let you in with another glimpse into my world.

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Yesterday’s tragic shooting in Virginia, in which two journalists were killed by a former co-worker and third individual was badly injured, was blindsiding. In the hours that passed, we learned more about the shooter’s turbulent work history. However, the only real hints at total disaster came in near real time, as the shooter let the world into the depths of his depravity through a bizarre manifesto and social media postings made shortly after the murders. All told, it’s hard to imagine how this tragedy could have been prevented.

A little less than five years ago, I wrote here about a horrific workplace shooting in Pennsylvania that left two employees dead and another severely injured. When I Googled to find more information about the aftermath of that 2010 shooting, I found this article about a jury award entered this past Spring, finding that the security company hired to protect employees at the facility negligent. Still, like yesterday’s shooting, no one could have accurately forecasted the Pennsylvania tragedy. Although, apparently, repeated clashes between the killer and her co-workers prior to the shooting suggested that matters could escalate beyond mere words.

Ultimately, it’s exceedingly difficult to predict workplace violence, and there is no solution to stopping it altogether, especially when outside forces can impact employee safety. However, there are several prophylactic steps that employers can take to reduce the risk. Please refer back to my 2010 post for some suggestions (and resources) on addressing the root of the problem before it spirals out of control into workplace violence.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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One of my all-time favorite ADA cases — God, am I a dork — is Keith v. County of Oakland, which I previously blogged about here. It involves a deaf lifeguard who applies for a position at a public pool and what, accommodations, if any are reasonable to allow him to perform the essential functions of the job. Why I like the case — in addition to singing the Baywatch theme when I speak about it at SHRM events — is it teaches employers never to judge a book by its cover. Even a deaf lifeguard may be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.

Yesterday, I read about another case involving a deaf applicant for a safety-sensitive position.

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It’s very well settled law that accommodating a customer’s preference to be serviced by employees of a particular race is, well, racist. A few weeks ago, this situation arose with a Lowe’s store in Virginia. A CBS affiliate reported (here) that a white Lowe’s customer refused to accept a delivery from a black Lowe’s deliveryman. According to the report, the customer specifically asked Lowe’s not to send a black delivery person. The customer told the CBS affiliate that “she had the right to have whatever she wanted and she did not feel bad about making the request for a white driver.”

Unfortunately, the story indicates that the store manager accommodated the customer by sending out a white driver instead. However, after the incident was reported to corporate, the company issued a statement denouncing the “discriminatory delivery request” as “inconsistent with our diversity and inclusion core values.” Lowe’s also terminated the store manager’s employment.

Employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to maintain a workplace that is free from discrimination and unlawful harassment. Responsible companies have handbooks, policies, and training to help accomplish this. But, just remember that folks like customers, vendors, and the like are part of the workplace too. So, remind your workforce — especially your managers and supervisors — not to tolerate behavior that wouldn’t otherwise be condoned if displayed by an employee.

Image Credit: “2008-11-10 Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Chapel Hill” by Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

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The SHRM blog does, silly. But, I can link to the preview (here) and the recap (here). Definitely check those out. Allen Smith, Manager of workplace law content at SHRM, and a host of others did a great job fielding questions about the ADA and FMLA issues that keep HR professionals up at night.

(Me? I sleep comfortably on a pile of money on top of another pile of money. Thanks for asking.)

P.S. – Special shout out to my little guy Pierce, who turns three today. May next year bring him his first body bopper victory over his older sister.

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I was going to blame the tardiness of today’s post on technical difficulties. Except, the only thing that was technically difficult about it was trying to muster the energy to blog last night after spending four hours in the sun with my 6-year-old at the Eagles first preseason game. I’m happy to report that the Eagles won, and, to the delight of the intoxicated masses who hung around in the fourth quarter — most everyone but me and my son — Tim Tebow scored a touchdown.

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