The above headline, or something like it, is depressingly familiar in the United States.
One reason may be that almost anyone can get a semi-automatic handgun in America, which escalates what should have been bloody nose to catastrophic proportions.
But there is another reason too.
American employers lack the motivation to deal appropriately with workplace conflict. Indeed, some unscrupulous employers even use bullying intentionally to achieve a goal – like driving out good employees who assert a legal right or downsizing without paying unemployment compensation.
Remember the Corvair? It was an unsafe car that was targeted a few decades ago by consumer activist Ralph Nadar, who said the car manufacturer knew the Corvair was unsafe but refused to make it safer because it was cheaper to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of the dead and injured. Experts know that bullying and harassment cause the target to suffer potentially severe physical and mental damage, sometimes leading to suicide or workplace fatalities. But nobody – not even the federal government – does anything about it. Cheaper to pay the dead and injured.
For more than a decade, workplace anti-bully activists have lobbied without success to pass what in reality is an incredibly weak proposed state law (Healthy Workplace Bill) to discourage workplace bullying and harassment.
Meanwhile, many industrialized countries around the world have enacted laws and regulations that clearly place the responsibility upon the employer to maintain a safe and bully-free workplace.
American employees who are hounded out of a job are left with a hodgepodge of ill-fitting laws to fall back on. If they do somehow manage to file a lawsuit, they are likely to encounter a hostile judiciary. Research shows that federal judges almost routinely dismiss discrimination cases before the case can even get to a jury.
This week, Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who had been laid off as a women’s accessory designer, shot and killed a 41-year-old manager at Johnson’s former workplace, Hazan Imports Corp. of New York City. Johnson fled the scene but was followed by a construction worker. Johnson took a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his bag after two officers on counterterrorism patrol approached him. As many as nine people were shot – some possibly by police – before Johnson was dead. Johnson does not appear to have any criminal record.
There is no indication that Johnson felt bullied or harassed or that Hazan failed to properly address workplace conflict. But he was obviously a disgruntled worker.
The incident is part of the on-going volatility of America right now where it is no longer shocking to read a headline such as: “Disgruntled Man Returns to Workplace and Kills (pick a number).”