Behind Empire State shooting: A layoff, a gun, and a targeted ex-boss

Written by admin   // August 27, 2012   // Comments Off

(Christian Science Monitor)

The street shooting Friday morning near New York’s landmark Empire State Building, in which an ex-employee killed his former boss, is a tragic reminder that workplace-related violence remains a consistent, if sporadic, problem – one that more American companies have sought to address by adopting more humane firing policies.

The shooter, who was killed by police officers as he tried to leave the scene, has been identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 58. Authorities say he lost his job with Hazan Imports, which imports budget women’s purses, about a year ago when the company downsized.

Although Mr. Johnson apparently targeted one individual, chaos ensued in the Empire State Building vicinity, a major New York tourist district, as police confronted him and, when he pulled his gun, fired in his direction, killing him. Nine bystanders were wounded, either caught in the line of fire or hit by richoceting bullets.

Most large companies have an established policy for firing workers, says employment expert Chris Lawson, CEO of Eli Daniel Group in Dallas, a staffing company. “The HR department has you come in and sit down, they walk you to your desk, let you get your belongings, and walk out calmly with you,” he says. “We know it’s emotional, and people get blind-sided all the time.”

Smaller companies, he says, often don’t have much expertise with firing employees. “In reality, there are managers across the country who are not properly trained in how to manage the termination process,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is send someone out the door in a fit of rage.”

At this stage of the investigation into Friday’s shooting, it’s not clear why Mr. Johnson shot his former boss, a vice president of sales for Hazan, or why he acted now. A usual motive in such cases, say experts on violence in the workplace, is revenge.


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