The rampage that killed five employees at an Orlando area business that sells RV and camper awnings is part of an increasing trend of workplace violence, experts say.
The killings are the deadliest single act of workplace violence since the San Bernadino, Calif., attack in December 2015, said Kathleen Bonczyk, a researcher who focuses on workplace violence.
Syed Rizwan Farook, who worked at the public health department in San Bernardino, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and hurt 22 before they died in a shootout with the police.
There were 417 homicides at workplaces across the country in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Three hundred fifty-four of those were shootings, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. It was the first time the number of shootings had increased since 2012.
“There are always, always, always signs,” Bonczyk said. “It has gotten worse, and it’s becoming an epidemic. There used to be a time when an employee shooting someone in the workplace would be a shock. Now it’s becoming common.”
The Orange County gunman, identified by the Sheriff’s Office as John Robert Neumann Jr., previously had been investigated after being accused of battery on another employee in 2014. Charges were never filed in the case.
Neumann killed himself Monday after gunning down five former co-workers at Fiamma, a business on Forsyth Road, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
He knew how to enter the building through a back door — a big problem for workplace security, said Oscar Villanueva, chief operating officer at TAL Global.
“When a business terminates an employee, they need to do a threat assessment,” Villanueva said. “If they have a past history of bullying or violence, that’s a warning.”
California, where TAL Global is based, just passed a new law requiring health care facilities to have a workplace-violence program. Villanueva said that is a sign of things to come.
He said prevention of violence at work can be an expense, but it’s expensive not to act, too. “Companies have a duty to protect while the employees are on their property,” Villanueva said.
Bonczyk said her research shows there have been 150 employee-on-employee killings since 2010.
“You hear it again and again. People always say ‘We didn’t think it would happen here,’ but it can happen anywhere and anytime,” Bonczyk said. “It shouldn’t be a question of if; employers should operate under the question of when.”