Social Media Investigations

June 29th, 2015 Comments off

It always amazes me what people will post on their social media channels that they may not speak about while with a group of friends or associates. This even holds true for those that communicate about negative, unethical or even criminal activity. It is as if they think they speak in ‘code’ and nobody will notice or care except those they intend the post for. Maybe it’s the convenience, efficiency, and instant communication capability that the SM channels offer that cause this tendency. Or maybe it is just the ‘cool’ factor of being active on these sites. Whatever the motivation, this habit is one that we as corporate investigators, or public law enforcement, should not overlook.

In any investigation you must first ‘open all doors’ to assess what is happening or what has happened and who might be involved. Then once all potential individuals of interest are identified and the scope of the situation/crime is defined, you go through the process of ‘closing those doors’ and ruling out individuals that are not involved and narrow your focus on those who warrant closer scrutiny. Traditional investigative techniques (interviews, review of surveillance video, physical surveillance, document review, etc.) are typically used as the investigation becomes more focused but information available by mining social media channels can speed results throughout this process, as well as make it more thorough and cost effective.

Human Resource professionals should also be taking into consideration what potential applicants and even current employees are posting. It can be a reflection into someone’s abilities, character, interests, values, intentions, and past experiences. Often having internal personnel search for this information is time consuming and expensive, or you just may not have the staff or capability to complete it. However, through very inexpensive vendor services, this information can be gathered from publicly available sources. This process is known as open source intelligence (OSINT). It is out there for the taking and can be obtained very conveniently.

Using deep web harvester technology (powered by Bright Planet) AFIMAC has developed a specialized investigative service line with convenient online ordering, or corporate account status if desired, for fully automated social media ‘footprint‘ searches and social media surveillance/monitoring at very inexpensive rates. Check out our website for additional information.

https://afimacsmi.com/

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High Risk Employee Terminations – Not Always Obvious

May 22nd, 2015 Comments off

There are two types of terminations that should be considered high risk. One is when aggressive behavior violates workplace violence policies or elevates to an unacceptable level and the person has to be terminated due to that behavior. The other kind can sneak up on you and many workplace violence prevention programs do not address it. With this type, the person has displayed continuously deteriorating work performance, in spite of corrective counseling, and this leads to a termination requirement. What makes this situation high risk is that the underlying cause(s) for the deteriorating work performance can also contribute towards that person’s potential to react violently during the termination itself. Their termination can cause an extreme sense of desperation at a time when they are the most volatile.

Most good workplace violence prevention programs will have educated the workforce, especially supervisors, to recognize the dangerous individual behaviors leading to the first type of high risk termination. The unacceptably aggressive behavior is the reason for the termination. It is therefore reasonable to expect some element of risk with the termination event itself, and precautions are often taken.

The second type may not contain the same aggressive behavioral indicators. However, in some of these cases, there will be indications of stress induced aggressiveness which should then serve as a red flag. Human resource personnel and the corporate security team should work together and involve third party clinical professionals to evaluate the underlying causes for the performance drop in otherwise good employees seemingly under stress. Those causes could indicate that if termination becomes necessary, precautions should be taken during the process. They can discuss with the individual what is going on in their life. They can also assess how those factors might affect the person’s response to the possible loss of their employment (often the last straw.)

Violence is typically a process, not an isolated event. The violence process usually has behavioral red flags along the way and this is what thorough workplace violence training often outlines. But the ‘under the radar’ cases that I have just described are especially dangerous because they lack those aggressive behavioral indicators. Therefore, your termination process protocols should not only address the obvious high risk terminations, but they should also account for those where there has been a dramatic drop off in performance so substantial and out of character that it results in the need for termination. Perhaps the real reasons for that performance drop off are so personally severe and so devastating, they could also represent a danger for a violent reaction to the loss of employment. Not realizing the desperation that this person faces until the time of the actual termination may be too little, too late. The job may have been all they had left to depend on!  They are now focusing on your company as the evil force that took away the one last thing that was important to them.

For more information regarding safely conducting the termination process for all types of high risk cases, check out the courses at www.imac-training.com.

Bullying and Its Effects in the Workplace

April 20th, 2015 Comments off

If you were lucky you didn’t have to worry much about being bullied in school. If you weren’t so lucky, then you remember the effects. The same human dynamics can apply in the workplace with adults. The tactics and their effects are sometimes not as obvious, but they are very real. Workplace bullying is often the first step in a developing workplace violence issue. One that can result in lost employees, lost productivity, law suits, and can lead to overt violence if left unchecked.

Why do women handle being victimized by a workplace bully differently than men? Men are taught throughout their upbringing to stand up to bullies. This will lead to confrontation eventually and if the tension has built up enough over time, ‘standing up’ may result in violence. Nobody wins. People are hurt or terminated; and sometimes the wrong people are terminated. The workplace becomes an unpleasant place to be. People leave. This all costs money, time, company reputation, and possibly clients.

What if the bully is your supervisor?  If aggressive tactics are tolerated as supervisory motivators, they will become the dominant form of management. This is an absolute path towards organizational failure. Fear has a rare place in supervision. Holding people accountable can be done in a very civil and subtle manner. There is often a blurred line between accountability and being pressured by a bully who says they are trying to motivate. The effects will often be: lower energy levels, no employee initiative, manipulative behavior among employees to avoid the bully, health problems, and there are many others.

Does this sound like an environment in which people will work extra hard to get things accomplished? Will it inspire good teamwork? Obviously no, but how can bullies exist in some workplaces for so long without being dealt with? Bullying and inappropriate aggression will continue if they are ignored. Fear is usually what causes this tendency to ignore or deny the behavior. The bully’s tactics are effective in that regard. It is easier to avoid the problem than to address it. However, ignoring is another form of tolerance. Tolerance is another form of acceptance. This perceived acceptance is why bullying can exist undeterred for too long. Bullies are transferred and can sometimes even be promoted just to get rid of them. This only reinforces the bully’s confidence in his tactics. Workplace violence prevention programs must address this developmental stage and that is truly what it is. It will lead to an incident! These are questions that plague many workplaces and effect otherwise productive happy workers. Don’t be a victim. Don’t allow such a toxic environment.

Learn more about how to protect your workers from being bullied. Check out the “Workplace Bullying: Identification and Response” course on the IMAC online training site www.imac-training.com

Does Domestic Violence Translate to Workplace Violence?

March 23rd, 2015 Comments off

Absolutely it does! First of all, your workplace violence policy should address the reporting of domestic abuse as a requirement, not just a suggestion. This includes the observation of it happening to a co-worker. The policy should give clear reasons why this is necessary, and perhaps list examples of cases where domestic violence exploded within the workplace. Did you know that 74% of the reported cases of domestic abuse also reported that some of the abuse actually took place in the victim’s work area? Consider if an abused spouse or partner secures a restraining order for the home, or if the victim moves, where is the next most predictable place to find that victim? The workplace; where now others are exposed to the abuser.

It used to be that companies did not want to get involved with domestic abuse experienced by one of their employees. There was a ‘check your personal problems at the door’ attitude. That demeanor now is unacceptable and flat out dangerous. The violent spouse or partner in a fit of rage seeking the victim at their workplace does not always confine the violence to just the victim. The company or organization has a moral and legal responsibility to be aware of such abusive activity and foresee that it could enter the workplace and become everyone’s problem. The courts will certainly look at it that way should an incident occur in the workplace and someone else is hurt.

Turning a blind eye and allowing the abuse to go unreported, is not a defense. If the victim’s co- workers are aware of the abuse, then the organization needs to be aware of it. Therefore, your policy needs to make all of your employees aware of their responsibility to report such a situation for a discrete investigation. Besides doing the right thing to help the victim employee, your knowledge of the abuse, and subsequent actions taken to protect that individual and the work environment, will become part of your defense. Options might include counseling or other Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intervention, relocating the affected employee within the office to a new work space, changing their schedule to avoid nighttime parking, or even transferring them to another facility if that would help. Make some accommodations that will either help with the direct problem, or reduce the likelihood that the problem will manifest itself at work in a violent manner. OSHA’s general duty clause maintains the expectation that the workplace be made safe from foreseeable dangers and this is one of them.

Please explore our online training courses available at www.imac-training.com for workplace violence prevention courses as well as other security disciplines.

Workplace Violence Policy – What Behavior Should it Include?

February 27th, 2015 Comments off

Workplace courtesy and safety should be a simple matter of applying those basic rules of behavior we all should have learned by the time we were 5 years old. It has however become a complicated issue, with social and legal consequences for both the offenders and their employers that fail to identify aggressive behaviors as violations. Is bullying a behavior that should be defined within the workplace violence prevention policy and included as unacceptable behavior? Is a domestic abuse problem the company’s business? Where does ‘aggressive management’ cross the line into the early stages of potential workplace harassment and create a hostile working environment in which people are prone to over-react.

Yes, these conditions do have to be very clearly spelled out in a workplace violence prevention program and in any written policy statements. If your policy is limited to actual physical violence, or threats of violence, it will fall short of recent standards. Such standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – see directive CPL 02-01-052 dated 9/8/11) and ASIS/SHRM’s Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention – American National Standard document define workplace violence with fairly broad language. In order for your policy to provide some hope of prevention, as well as a reasonable defense in court, the following types of activity and conduct must be addressed:

  • Criminal activity within the workplace
  • Customer/client/patient confrontations
  • Personal partner abuse/domestic violence spilling into the workplace
  • Aggressive co-worker issues such as abusive emails, verbal threats, hostile intimidation, and any other unacceptable behavior that invokes fear in the workplace
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying

Much of this conduct is subject to assessment of ‘degree’, especially bullying, but your policy should give clear examples of unacceptable conduct. Absent written directives forbidding such behavior often isn’t considered wrong and therefore goes unreported. This will not only assure its continuation, but will probably be interpreted as acceptance and lead to more drastic, or more aggressive conduct. If it seems like there might be some spill-over into other policies governing employee conduct, like into your Harassment Prevention Policy, so be it. You still want to address the unacceptable behavior, see that it is reported, and take action to stop it. If abusive or aggressive conduct is addressed by more than one policy, that’s fine.

To be effective, the Workplace Violence Policy has to be understood by the workforce and the only method for achieving that is through training. This training has to be done at the employee level for all. Employees actually have to be considered your first line of reporting responsibility. They should learn the behavioral red flags and the reporting requirements expected. Training also has to be done for the supervisors who are going to be your second line of responsibility to investigate the issues. Then, the designated Threat Assessment Team should be given even more specific training as to how the policy is to be applied and enforced. High risk terminations, for example, should always include an assessment by the Threat Assessment Team and the following of established protocols for the termination.

Check out our whole Workplace Violence Prevention series of training courses at www.imac-training.com.

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Are You Ready for a Data Breach?

January 22nd, 2015 Comments off

The threat of a data breach is becoming greater every day. Any business with POS (point of sale) data is a target. Therefore it is important to have a reactive solution on standby in the event of a breach or attempted breach. Research has shown that if there is a concise, turnkey data breach response plan in place, with trusted experts contracted, it is shown to reduce the negative financial impact of the breach by 22%. Thoroughly understanding the ‘scope of the breach’ is also important and can further reduce costs by 20% more by avoiding unnecessary notification.

Data breach threats in the Healthcare industry represented 42% of all data breaches reported in 2014 and are expected to get worse in 2015. Furthermore, a stolen medical identity sells for $50 on the black market compared to $3 for credit card information and $1 for a social security number. Breach protection goes beyond HIPPA compliance. It should include any PII and PHI (Personal Identifiable Information and Personal Health Information) as well as payroll/financial data, employee records, and intellectual property.

So let’s look at this problem both proactively and reactively. Of course minimizing the chances of a breach through proactive/preventive audits or assessments is much more prudent than just having a good response plan. You might already have your IT professionals internally doing periodic system checks but do they include the third party partners and vendors that touch your data for example or review employee behaviors that are causing exposure? These methods are how access is gained through no fault of your own systems security.

Proactively conducting holistic audits or assessments using investigative experience and technical evaluation to assess your real-world vulnerabilities is the key to minimizing your chances of a breach. You must identify your specific “Actual Threat Environment” leveraging a combination of computer forensic, IT, legal and investigative understanding to capture the entire scope of your vulnerability.

Reactively, in the event of a suspected breach, planned response measures should be quickly employed with a crisis management approach including:

  • initial triage/breach validation
  • quantification of the scope of the breach (necessary to determine need for notification at certain levels and prevents the organization from inappropriate or unnecessary response and resulting in harm)
  • call center support, mass notification guidance and assistance, credit monitoring and legal advice (if needed)
  • total forensic investigation to preserve evidence
  • rebuilding client/customer confidence

 

For more information on how AFIMAC can help you plan for such a situation please call 440.878.5114

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Workplace Violence – Is Your Company Still in Denial?

December 31st, 2014 Comments off

Tragic events of violence in the workplace are continuing with disturbing frequency. Does your management really still think violence couldn’t happen in your workplace?  Violence is a critical issue for employers to deal with and one of the biggest mistakes that many organizations make is to remain in denial. It is an unpleasant topic to talk about, let alone make policy on, but you are taking a huge financial risk by not recognizing it could happen in your workplace and developing prevention strategies to reduce those chances. Your only defense against being found negligent and liable is to have done the necessary research to overcome a reasonable foreseeability argument and to have an assertive workplace violence prevention program in place. Furthermore, when you tell employees they are your most valued asset, what message are you sending to them when you do not address violence prevention? It’s not just about reducing liability- it is the right thing to do for your employees.

Let’s look at some conditions that can lead to a workplace violence incident.  Has your business/organization ever:

  • had crime in your neighborhood?
  • had a domestic violence situation with one of your employees?
  • fired anyone?
  • had a crime happen in your business?
  • had one of your employees stalked?
  • had an irate customer threaten one of your employees?
  • had a bully in your ranks using aggressive, intimidating language or action against another?

Yes, all of these things can lead to workplace violence and will be looked at in court as contributing to reasonable foreseeability.

How often, after a tragic violent incident, do people who are interviewed say something like “I knew he would do something like this” or “he always made me afraid”? Often those who are in the best position to recognize problem behavior from an individual are the employees who engage with them every day. They know something is wrong but may keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about an issue but don’t know how to report what they see, or are afraid to. This is not the employee’s fault if they haven’t been made aware that they have a responsibility to report certain things.

Let’s just take the example of not reporting inappropriate aggression in the workplace. This can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
  • Not knowing what behavior is deemed unacceptable and must be reported
  • Not knowing to whom or how to report the behavior
  • No assurance that there will be a follow up by a supervisor

All of these reasons can be addressed with an effective workplace violence prevention policy that is enforced and is an employment compliance requirement. Workplace violence prevention policies must address inappropriate intimidation through language, gestures, direct and indirect threats, or any other aggressive conduct that instills fear into employees. This fear can be coming from an internal or external source. Not only should all employees be trained in what to look for but they should be required to report the problem to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the organization to handle such matters.

Denial is evident when ongoing intimidating conduct is never reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This will assure that the aggressive conduct or bullying will continue. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated by the company. Soon the behavior can take on a more violent form when people begin to fight back. Eventually the workplace becomes a hostile environment. No matter who the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped. Don’t transfer the person out to another department hoping they will change their behavior.  Don’t promote them out, and don’t make excuses – correct the behavior.

For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, active shooter response planning and training, supervisory training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at www.imac-training.com.

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Employees with Guns During Active Shooter Incidents – Making a Bad Situation Worse!

November 19th, 2014 Comments off

There is always debate after a tragic school or workplace active shooter incident about employees wanting to take their protection into their own hands. Yes, certain states have laws which allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have acquired the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations would prefer to have workplace violence policies which prohibit their employees from bringing guns on property, even locked in their car in the parking lot. So where should prudent workplace violence policies draw the line?

Practically speaking, when would an employee be in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation? What are the realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation and can the average citizen effectively engage a hostile shooter under those conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers? Not easy questions to answer.

Let’s think about some realities and you can shape your own opinions.

  • Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy. That policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities when developing a company policy. An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy. The active shooter response plan should dictate that the first reaction priority is to get out of the building during such an incident. The second response option is to hide quietly in a safe, locked and barricaded place. Only as a last resort should you engage the shooter in a fight for your life. Granted, at that point having your weapon would be useful.  However, would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and get out first and not try to play hero, perhaps making matters worse for responding police?
  • Do all private citizens/employees engage in combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion that will characterize an active shooter rampage? This type of defensive shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement professionals who do such training.
  • What liabilities exist for the company, and the defending employee, if they engage a personal weapon defensively but miss and hit an innocent person nearby?
  • If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it will have to be in a position to be reached quickly, not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus, the weapon would have to be in the building. This however, represents a more significant risk on a daily basis for the business under normal conditions. What if another type of workplace violence incident is perpetrated simply because others know about that personal weapon in the workplace? And others will know about its presence.
  • Personally, if I was the employee who could not get out and had to hide out, I would like to have my 9mm with me, if I did have to fight for my life, rather than makeshift weapons. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. Still, the weapon wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t in my desk or close-by.

This may not be the most definitive advice, but I think it is helpful to consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention plan.

Check out our workplace violence and active shooter response training courses on line at:

www.imac-training.com.

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High Risk Employee Terminations – Not Always Obvious

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

There are two types of terminations that should be considered high risk. One is when aggressive behavior by an individual violates workplace violence policies or elevates to an unacceptable level and the person has to be terminated due to that behavior. The other kind can sneak up on you and many workplace violence prevention programs do not address it. In this type, the person has displayed continuously deteriorating work performance, in spite of progressive counseling, and this leads to the termination requirement. What makes this situation high risk is that the underlying cause(s) for the deteriorating work performance can also be hidden contributors towards that person’s potential to react violently during the termination itself. Furthermore, they can feel an extreme sense of desperation in the time after losing that job which can lead to problems as well, just when you thought it was over.

Most good workplace violence prevention programs will have educated the workforce, and supervisors, to recognize the dangerous individual behaviors leading to the first type of high risk termination. The unacceptably aggressive behavior is the reason for the termination. It is therefore reasonable to expect some element of risk with the termination event itself, and precautions are often taken.

The second type may not contain the same aggressive behavioral indicators. However, in some of these cases, there will be indications of stress induced aggressiveness which should then serve as a red flag. Human resource personnel and the corporate security team should work together and involve third party clinical professionals to evaluate the underlying causes for the performance drop in otherwise good employees. Those causes could indicate that if termination becomes necessary, precautions should be taken during the process. They can discuss with the individual what is going on in their life. They can assess how those factors might affect the person’s response to the possible loss of their employment (often the last straw.) These ‘under the radar’ cases are the exception to the rule and that is what makes them so dangerous.

Violence is typically a process, not an isolated event. The violence process usually has behavioral red flags along the way and this is what thorough workplace violence training often outlines. But these ‘under the radar’ cases that I have just described are especially dangerous because they lack those behavioral indicators. Therefore, your termination process protocols should address not only the obvious high risk terminations but they should also account for those where there has been a dramatic drop off in performance so substantial and out of character that it results in the need for termination. Perhaps the real reasons for that performance drop off are so personally severe and so devastating, they could also represent a danger for a violent reaction to the loss of employment. Only realizing the desperation that this person faces at the time of the actual termination may be too little, too late. The job may have been all they had left to depend on!  They are now focusing on your company as the evil force that took away that one last thing that was important to them.

For more information regarding safely conducting the termination process for all types of high risk cases, check out the courses at www.imac-training.com.

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Reducing Your Workplace Violence Liability

February 25th, 2014 Comments off

Having a robust and effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program is now a necessity in terms of reducing your organization’s liability for such events. Denial that anything horrific will ever happen in you workplace is no longer acceptable. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance and civil liability will often revolve around the legal opinion of whether an act of violence could have been foreseen, and mitigation or prevention steps taken. If the act occurred in your workplace, or in an environment related to your business dealings, your organization will have to answer the often unclear question of what was “reasonably foreseeable.” There are many different types of incidents that are considered workplace violence and subject to such scrutiny such as:

  • Criminal activity of a violent nature that takes place in your workplace
  • Violence by a customer/client/patient with some relationship with the workplace (even if it occurs in the “field” while on organizational business)
  • Co-worker aggression or bullying
  • Former employee returning to commit ‘revenge violence’
  • Personal relationship violence (domestic violence) unfolding in the workplace

Granted, the final act of violence might happen suddenly but the precursory warning signs that often develop over time, before the culminating incident, need to be addressed. Proper follow up on those warning signs might even prevent the violence from occurring. So, what will be necessary in order to develop a defensible position that your organization had done everything reasonable to anticipate and prevent a violent incident? Depending on which type of incident occurs, you will need much of the following to build your defense:

  • Crime statistics (trends and recent occurrences) in the geographic location of the workplace
  • Physical security audit at the property
  • Research on crimes and violence typically related to your industry – Perhaps from professional associations or peer groups – emphasis on causes that might also apply to your organization within that same industry
  • Records regarding specific acts of inappropriate aggression or violence at your workplace or at other company facilities in the past
  • Records of employee complaints and incidents of “bullying” in the workplace
  • Evidence of a written workplace violence prevention policy
  • Evidence of employee and supervisory training relative to aggressive behavior recognition and reporting responsibilities dictated by the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Development of a case management team for assessment purposes when investigation of an individual or incident is called for
  • Records regarding reports of domestic violence affecting someone in your workforce – especially if it has become noticed at work (You cannot consider this just a personal matter)
  • Evidence of safe termination protocols for individuals where violence or aggression has been an issue or for someone who might be considered high risk for a vengeful reaction

This is certainly not a complete list but it is enough to give your organization a good baseline for being prepared. The biggest challenge that any employer has to face is getting out of denial that one of these incidents could happen to them. Having a solid Workplace Violence Prevention Plan is good practice not only legally, but it is the right thing to do for the safety of your employees and visitors.

Check out IMAC’s online training series on workplace violence at www.imac-training.com including the new course on Active Shooter Response.

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