'Fisticuffs on the job' was a hot topic with our respondents!
August 25, 2017 by John Bleasby
The issue of bullying behavior and physical attacks at work is serious. Perhaps more than any of our previous Contractor Dilemma contests, ‘Fisticuffs on the Job Site’ resulted in more high quality responses than any previous scenario. Thank you to all who took the time to express their thoughts and idea. In fact, Canadian Contractor will be using some of the many excellent comments submitted in an upcoming post discussing the important issue of workplace harassment.
In our latest Contractor Dilemma, Howie and Brian, two of contractor Ian Dobson’s framing crew, were punching it out after Howie had made lewd comments about Brian’s wife. This was not the first time Howie had yanked Brian’s chain. He was just that kind of guy. Dobson arrived on the scene to find both men with blood on their faces yelling at each other. What should Dobson do now?
In this case, not only had Ian Dobson failed as a manager to recognize the potential for harassment between his employees given their personalities, he failed to even have a policy in place to deal with it should it happen. As a result, he was caught off-guard and flat-footed when Howie and Brian did battle during lunch.
Employers have a moral if not legal obligation to provide a safe work environment. That goes beyond physical safety to include harassment. The absence of any foresight leaves Dobson in a difficult position, restricting how he can reasonably and fairly deal with any consequential punishment. While at first glance, firing one or both workers might seem justified, in the absence of any behavioral policy in place, our panel felt that would be unwise and unhelpful.
Because Dobson did not personally witness what led to the fisticuffs, he was left only with the sight of Howie and Brian, each with blood on their faces. Speculate as he might as to the cause of the fight, Dobson needs to get serious. He needs to sit down independently with each man to get their version of events, plus take statements from those workers who witnessed the events firsthand.
Our panel felt that once Dobson learns the details surrounding the incident, his best move would be to suspend both Howie and Brian without pay for a few days so they can cool down and to reflect on their behavior. If Dobson feels there is an opportunity for each man to exchange sincere expressions of apology and remorse, he could bring them back to work after that suspension. If this is the case, and assuming he values the men as good workers, Dobson should send both to counselling, at company expense. However, failure by either man to either accept their responsibilities or refuse to attend even the most basic of counselling sessions should result in dismissal.
Going forward, Dobson must recognize the impact the incident had on his other other employees and put a workplace harassment policy in place that includes a dispute/complaint mechanism. He then needs to meet with his employees to outline that policy, and to explain to them the consequences for future misbehavior.
Many of these individual elements favoured by our panel were included in several submissions received. Words like ‘respect’, ‘mediation’, and ‘workplace culture’ were often referenced by respondents. In the final analysis, the panel felt that best overall solution was submitted by Sharon Clarke of Bosch Services Inc., Burlington Ontario.
Congratulations Sharon! You will receive a DeWalt FLEXVOLT® 60V MAX* 6-1/2″ Track Saw (DCS520T1 with DCB606, DCB118, in Tstak), with a retail value of $669
Stay tuned both on-line and in print and enter our next Contractor Dilemma, coming soon.