Workplace Violence

It is an essential goal of the University of Florida to maintain a safe and comfortable workplace and academic setting for all members of the university community. In support of this commitment, the University of Florida has established standards of conduct that cover every member of our community. Specifically, violent acts, threats (direct or implied), unlawful harassment, verbal or physical abuse, stalking, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior will not be tolerated and will result in appropriate university response including disciplinary action and criminal prosecution.

As further support of this commitment, the university has established a three-tier program that focuses on prevention, threat management and related behavioral issues, and crisis intervention. Listed below is information regarding this policy, insight as to steps that should be taken under various circumstances, and resource contact information.

Safety and security are both personal and shared responsibilities. While all supervisors and administrators are called on to report inappropriate behavior immediately, the collective involvement of every member of the university community is both important and appreciated.

Prevention – Proactive Initiatives That Make A Difference 

1. Pre-employment Screening – Care in Selecting a New Team Member

Verifying Education and Work History
An important and positive investment is a thorough assessment of potential employment candidates and verification of their past records. Recruitment and Staffing coordinates education verification for all selected candidates for USPS and TEAMS positions. The hiring authority is responsible for confirming the necessary amount of work experience to qualify for a particular position. In addition, care by the hiring authority in obtaining accurate information regarding performance and conduct in previous positions and in obtaining an accounting of any gaps noted on applications and/or resumes is important. Finally, any required licenses or other specially designated credentials should be verified by the hiring authority in coordination with Recruitment and Staffing. Certain positions covered by 435, Florida Statutes, require a very specific background check process. Please refer to individual position descriptions and confer with Recruitment and Staffing.

Criminal Background Checks
Knowing about past convictions, particularly as relevant to a particular position’s responsibilities or area of work, is a responsible component of a complete assessment process. Upon request and for $15, Recruitment and Staffing will coordinate a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) check that captures all activity in a statewide database regarding past convictions. This is an appropriate step for all current or former Florida residents and usually takes 1-2 days to secure a report. For those applicants who currently or formerly lived out of state, a check for a particular state or a nationwide check can be coordinated through Recruitment and Staffing upon request.

2. Warning Signs – Unacceptable Behavior to Address

To insure a positive work environment, all members of the university community are expected to conduct themselves in an appropriate and professional manner. The following are examples of behavior that is unacceptable and should be reported immediately.

Level One

  • Uncooperative with supervisors, co-workers
  • Belligerent toward customers
  • Profanity used
  • Makes unwanted and/or inappropriate sexual comments (see the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy)
  • Refuses to obey department/university policy and procedures
  • Increased absenteeism on-the-job (productivity drop; appearing to not be focused)

Level Two

  • Direct or veiled threats of violence
  • Writes sexual or violent notes – intimidation verbally or physically
  • Violates state law by carrying a weapon or firearm on UF property or at UF events (see 790.115(2), Florida Statutes)–other than in the circumstances specified as permitted, including in vehicles under 790.25(5), Florida Statutes
  • Makes suicidal comments or threats
  • Involved in fights or assaults
  • Stalks co-workers or their family

Take All Threats Seriously – Reporting And Addressing 

1. Guidelines for Reporting Threats Immediately

All threats and other inappropriate behavior that create an immediate concern for safety should be reported immediately to the University Police Department (UPD) at (352) 392-1111 or local law enforcement if off campus. You may also dial 911, but remember, you must first dial 9 to get an outside line. Examples listed in “Level Two” above should be reported to UPD. For other behavioral or performance concerns involving USPS or TEAMS, including examples listed in “Level One” above, the Human Resource Services satellite office nearest you should be contacted for assistance. For concerns involving students, contact the office of the Dean of Students at 392-1261. For issues involving faculty, the appropriate supervisor should be the first point of contact, who then is to immediately report the situation to their Dean or Director’s office.

2. Conflict Resolution–“Defusing” Routine Situations of Tension

It is not uncommon that in the course of daily campus life there are internal or external customers with concerns to be addressed. At times, tension and anxiety may be involved. There may be extreme situations that require the intervention of others, including UPD. However, when appropriate, the following suggestions may assist you in successfully addressing these situations.

Have a pre-arranged distress signal. Electronic “panic buttons,” such as used by bank tellers, serve to alert others that a situation requires immediate police assistance. Since most of us do not have this technology, having a brief phrase, such as “let Susan know that I can’t make our meeting” is designed to let your team member know to call UPD.

A tip: Keep the phrase short and ensure that new staff members are made aware of it when they come on board. Use this phrase only to summon law enforcement, and never use it in jest.

  • Assess the situation and determine if you feel comfortable in handling it alone or if assistance, either from a manager or UPD, is advisable.
  • Take charge – provide a smile, stand erect, remain alert, and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen – It’s critical that someone who is already upset feel that you care, and active listening, including taking notes and asking questions, is therefore a key to success.
  • Avoid defensiveness – it’s not important whether the complainant is accurate or fair at the moment. Your goal is to calm him or her down, and debating with the person doesn’t help.
  • Avoid an audience – if others begin congregating in a lobby area, select someplace less public where you and one other staff member can sit and continue your discussion. By the way, be sure that the room you go to has an easy exit for both you, your co-worker or manager, and the customer – each of you needs to feel comfortable that you are not blocked from leaving.
  • Establish boundaries – let the individual know that while you are there to assist in resolving their concerns, they must behave! Profanity or raised voices are not conducive to effective communication, and threats will require you to contact the police and your assistance will end.

Domestic Violence – Some Insight And Recommended Action

Domestic violence is the number one cause for emergency room visits by women in the United States, causing more injuries to women than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Like other forms of violence that may originate elsewhere, domestic violence may spill over into the workplace in various ways. Of all employed battered women, 96 percent experience problems at work, and 75 percent must use work time to deal with their situation because they cannot do so at home. Half of those women miss at least three days of work monthly.

1. If YOU are a victim:  

  • Get to a safe place
  • Contact the UPD Office of Victim Services at 392-1111. A victim advocate can assist you with medical, legal, and counseling services (see further information on this office under Resources below).

2. If SOMEONE YOU KNOW is a victim: 

  • Don’t be afraid to offer help. If you know someone closer to the person, seek his or her assistance.
  • Approach the victim in an understanding, non-blaming way.
  • Acknowledge that it is scary and difficult to talk about domestic violence.
  • Suggest the victim speak with the Office of Victim Services.
  • Share information about domestic violence, social services, emergency shelters, counseling services, and legal advice. See Resources below and also visit the web site of the Office of Victim Services.
  • Help the victim plan safe strategies for leaving an abusive relationship.
  • Help the victim get to the hospital if needed and to report any assault to the police.  

3. If a suspected abuser appears in the workplace:

  • Remember that this is public university property, and conduct is dictated by university and department policy.
  • If behavior or threats warrant, call UPD immediately.
  • Consider moving the victim to another office location so that he or she is not as exposed to an unannounced visit.

Crisis Intervention

Should an actual incident of violence occur, it is important to have a plan of action in place. The following are key points to reference in the event that a traumatic event does occur.

  • The first call should be made to UPD (or local law enforcement if off campus ). Write down all details involving the incident for accurate recall later. A precise description of the incident, the perpetrator, physical descriptions of the setting, etc., will be critical.
  • All contact with the press and media should be funneled through one person in coordination with the University’s Office of Public Relations (846-3903). This protects the individual faculty and staff from further trauma and insures an appropriate “voice.”
  • The quick response and presence of Crisis Intervention Teams from appropriate areas is critical to the healing process for those affected directly or indirectly. Victims, witnesses, co-workers, and their families are among those who should be offered assistance. See Resources below for details of appropriate contacts.
  • The appropriate administrative contacts should be made next through the Dean or Director’s office (For USPS and TEAMS: Human Resource Services; for Faculty: the appropriate Dean’s Office; for students: the Dean of Student Affairs).

Workshops to Assist

Human Resource Services is pleased to offer a variety of workshops that may be very pertinent to the myriad of issues that influence a safe and comfortable workplace. Among these opportunities are:

Supervisory Challenge and General Training Courses

This is an ongoing commitment to provide workshops on relevant subjects such as conflict management, anger management and relationship stress.

For a complete and current listing of all workshop opportunities and corresponding descriptions, please visit the Training Courses and Registration section of this site.

Contact Information For Available Resources

University Police Department (UPD) – First Contact Point for Safety Concerns
UPD is committed to the prevention of crime and the protection of life and property; the preservation of peace, order and safety; the enforcement of laws and ordinances; and the safeguarding of constitutional guarantees.

Phone: (352) 392-1111

Website: http://www.police.ufl.edu/

Office of Victim Services (UPD)
This office was developed in 1993 in an effort to provide a civilian support person for anyone who may become a victim of crime while on the University of Florida campus. A victim advocate is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All services are free, confidential, and do not require that a crime be officially reported. This office provides a large amount of information (including on their website) regarding victim services on and off campus as well as services available for specific subjects to include: assistance for victims of physical assault, sexual assault, or domestic violence; obtaining a restraining order; and many other valuable areas of support.

Phone: (352) 392-5648 or (352) 392-1111

Website: http://www.police.ufl.edu/ovs/vap.asp

Human Resource Services – Employee Relations Assistance
Satellite offices are located at three locations around campus for your convenience and provide an array of personnel services, including employee relations assistance on matters pertaining to standards of conduct for USPS and TEAMS as well as complaint processes and related processes. Details regarding these offices follow:

Main HRS office and Satellite office for Education and General/Auxiliary
903 West University Avenue
Phone: (352) 392-1072

Health Science Center
Room H-8; P.O. Box 100346
Phone: (352) 392-3786

IFAS
2038 McCarty
Phone: (352) 392-4777

Physical Plant Division
Room 106, Building 702
Phone: (352) 392-2333

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The EAP is available free of charge to all University of Florida faculty and staff – including OPS. The purpose of the EAP is to promote, maintain, and support a positive and productive workplace. The EAP provides a wide range of services, including: confidential individual employee evaluation, referral, and crisis intervention; consultation services and traumatic incident debriefing for supervisors; workshops and training sessions (see EAP series under “Workshops” above), and support groups.

Room 242 Infirmary
Phone: (352) 392-5787

Website: http://www.eap.ufl.edu

University Counseling Center
Beyond a variety of ongoing counseling services available to students, the University Counseling Center provides consultative services to faculty and staff, to include violence victim support and methods for dealing with difficult people. The Counseling Center also is a referral source for those concerned about potentially violent relationships with co-workers, students, and others.

P 301 Peabody
Phone: (352) 392-1575

Website: http://www.counsel.ufl.edu

Alachua County Crisis Center
At times, personal crisis seems so intense and overwhelming that normal efforts to deal with it do not work. The Crisis Center is available in such situations. Among services available are:

Crisis Line – A 24-hour telephone crisis intervention and counseling service offered by trained volunteers under staff supervision. Phone: (352) 264-6789

Crisis Counseling – The Center offers short-term crisis counseling by appointment or on an emergency walk-in basis from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Care Team – The Care Team is an emergency mobile outreach team composed of experienced, carefully selected volunteers who respond to people in crisis whenever face-to-face contact is essential.

After Hours – Emergency mental health services, victim advocacy, and information and referral services are available.

Post Trauma Group Counseling – Available to groups of individuals who have shared a traumatic experience, either directly or through a friend or relative.

218 SE 24 Street , Gainesville, FL
Phone: (352) 264-6785

Website: http://www.alachuacounty.us/government/depts/css/crisis/

Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network (formally SPARC)
Provides a variety of support services and emergency assistance for victims of domestic abuse.

912 N.E. 2nd Street , Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: (352) 377-5690 or 1-800-393-SAFE

Website: http://www.peacefulpaths.org/index.asp