When Employees Are Victims of Stalking

Thankfully, it is not a common occurrence for an employee to be the victim of a stalker. However, if an employee's jilted lover, ex-spouse, or an obsessed co-worker begins stalking an employee (male or female), it can become your problem as well.

One women's advocacy group defines stalking this way: "stalking is when someone intentionally and repeatedly follows or watches another person, engages in unwanted communication with her, threatens her, or engages in any combination of these behaviors. A stalker may have a real or imagined relationship with the victim. He may send unwanted letters or gifts, make unwanted phone calls, or monitor the victim's activities."

Not surprisingly, being stalked will often impact a victim's ability to work. A stalker might call their victim dozens of times a day during working hours, bombard the employee with e-mails, or leave messages with the employee's co-workers. The employee's productivity will suffer because they feel distracted and afraid much of the time, and they often develop anxiety or depression.

Punishing a stalking victim for inconveniencing the company is never a good idea. For example, Virginia employment regulations state that an employer may not discharge or discriminate against an individual because the employee must be absent from work to attend a criminal proceeding. However, the employer is not required to compensate an employee in this instance.

Here are some steps an employer may take to help maintain the safety of an employee who is being stalked:

Help the employee obtain a protective order.
Transfer the employee to a different workstation or a different worksite.
Change the employee's phone extension and e-mail address, and remove them from your company's automated directory.
Arrange for someone to escort the employee to and from their car each day.
Encourage the victim to maintain a stalking log, with the dates and times noted. Have them save all evidence documenting the stalking: letters, e-mails, voice-mail messages. Tell the employee to take pictures of any damaged or destroyed personal property.

As an employer, you must take seriously incidents of stalking in order to protect the stalking victim as well as the rest of your workforce. SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .