Employees and Death Threats
January 23, 2018 12:04 AM   Subscribe

We run a small business with only 3 employees plus my husband who work in the office. One of these employees, L, has recently left her long term, live in boyfriend, R. Apparently it has not gone well.

This morning a hostile message was left on the business voice mail. My husband, Z, listened to the message and called the number back, essentially asking WTF. The person on the other end repeated his hostile message and made further personal remarks to/about Z. He then threatened to come to the office and shoot Z then come to our home and kill me and my kids. Z asked around the office if anyone recognized the number and L said that it was R’s number. She reveals that yes, R has a gun. We are completely and totally baffled as to why he has chosen Z as a target.

The local law enforcement was called and briefed. They called R and R reiterated his personal comments (mainly anti-immigrant, anti-Arab stuff) but did not issue any threats while on the phone with the law enforcement officer (LEO). LEO said the most we can do is file for an order of protection. LEO also suggested that if we felt afraid we might think of sending the kids to a friend’s house for a few days. This is.....unsatisfactory.

L says that, while R has threatened others before, he has never followed through on the threats. She has offered to tender her resignation if we feel it is necessary. She has not taken any legal action against him and does not seem inclined to file for an order of protection for herself. The other employees are, rightly, quite nervous- to the point that one left the office to retrieve their own gun. As the business owner, Z is upset and unsure of how to proceed.

There are not funds available to hire security, please trust me on this. There is a security system already in place, but no cameras. My husband, Z, did not think it made a difference if he locked the doors or not. I believe the doors should be locked, but then I have been in a robbery and had a gun in my face, so maybe I’m a little more nervous than others?

Now to the question.

I strongly feel that we should accept L’s resignation. Her drama has spilled over into our lives in a very unsafe way. I would perhaps feel different if she were alarmed or taking any sort of legal action. Her behavior/reaction has the feel of a woman leaving an abusive situation but not realizing the danger. I do not need the stress of checking out the windows before I leave my house.

My husband feels like we should keep her on but that he should get a gun (I am against this idea of reactive gun ownership). He says that because she works with specialized software, it will be hard to replace her and get the new person up to speed. He also says that R is planning to move out of state in a few months (according to L).

I would love to have The Hivemind’s opinion- does she stay or does she go? Also, any safety tips for us? This is so not what we need in our lives right now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What a dilemma!

Basically, do you potentially leave yourselves open to violence from an unhinged racist by retaining the woman, or do you let her abusive ex-boyfriend continue to abuse her and keep ruining her life by causing her to lose her job?

If I were in that situation, my sympathy for the employee would make me lean toward supporting her. But I’d really have to gauge how believable the threat of violence to be. If it’s really credible, I’d probably have to let the woman go. You have a responsibility to all of your other employees, too. But if it’s mostly bluster from the ex, I’d probably lean toward letting her stay.

If R is moving out of state, that may take the edge off of the situation in time. One thought: is L able to telecommute from home until R is out of state?
posted by darkstar at 12:19 AM on January 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

If I were in your position, I would absolutely back the employee and take whatever steps were necessary to help her feel safe. This sounds like a calculated attempt by R to ruin an ex-girlfriend's life (or possibly get her back) by getting her fired from her job (i.e., her source of income and independence from him).

For what it's worth, responding to obvious threats with passivity and inaction (e.g. not taking legal action, offering to leave her job) is a pretty classic response to trauma and abuse. I know it's frustrating to witness, but men don't go from "perfect boyfriend" to "threatening to kill your boss" overnight - it's likely that your employee has been enduring his abuse and/or controlling behaviour for a while now. She has a right to make her own choices, of course, but it's likely her decision-making is impaired by what she's already been through.

You can help by demonstrating to her that a) she's worthy of protection (by keeping her on staff and taking steps to keep the whole staff safe) and b) help is available (by engaging with law enforcement yourself and following through with what they recommend). Start by filing for the order of protection - I don't know the laws in your jurisdiction but it will likely make it much easier to get police to act if he contacts or threatens you again.
posted by embrangled at 1:15 AM on January 23, 2018 [119 favorites]

I'm in the camp of putting the safety of your family first. I also think that if you publicly back this employee you will not only be putting the safety of your family at risk, but also the other employees and your family's financial security (what employee is going to be able to concentrate when you have to worry about some nutjob shooting up your office? Especially when these scenarios are still pretty fresh on people's minds.)

It's nice to say on the Internet that you should back the employee but if, god forbid, anything did happen...I'm sure the same people here would say you were a well-meaning idiot.

That being said, perhaps your husband could not officially let her go, but make it seem as such? Could she take her PTO now or work remotely? Ideally she wouldn't have to lose her livelihood over this asshole though it may come to that.
posted by bluelight at 1:28 AM on January 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry, it sounds like a terrible situation for everyone. It sounds like you should file a RO for yourselves as suggested by the police, and arrange for a safe place for your kids to stay and/or 24/7 childcare for them. I agree that accepting the resignation of the woman seems unfair and that contacting an IPV organization is a good step to take, both for yourselves and your employee. I would also make sure to document any/every contact you have with the ex. I would also have a very low threshold for calling the police again, especially since the ex has threatened your husband and children.

In terms of the ex's history of prior threats that don't escalate, unfortunately, the time after a woman leaves her abusive partner is often the time that abuse escalates and threats become real. I would not take a promise of his history as a guarantee for the future. It sounds (and this is conjecture, but I have worked with lots of families in IPV situations) like the ex may be thinking that your husband is somehow responsible for her decision to leave (e.g., she's having an affair, R is more important to her than he is, etc.) and is now lashing out at him.

Finally, you may also want to contact an employment lawyer. If other employees feel threatened (so much so that they are bringing their own guns to work) it seems there is the potential for legal claims to be made (and extra guns would likely detract from the overall safety of the workplace).
posted by stillmoving at 1:35 AM on January 23, 2018 [23 favorites]

Can you vouch for her and maybe get her a similar job somewhere else in the same industry and then tell the boyfriend that she doesn't work for you anymore? That way he might leave all of you including her alone, if he thinks he succeeded in ruining her life, he won't know where she works now and she'll still have paid employment? Obviously ask her what she thinks about it and see if this is something she'd like to do. Otherwise there's no telling where this might end and the idea of this poor woman losing everything because of a nutcase is awful.
posted by Jubey at 1:58 AM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your husband needs to take the basic precaution of locking the doors and getting a door camera. Cameras are literally less than $50 on Ebay and whether she stays or goes, the threat has been made and he has a responsibility to the other employees to cover the security basics.

You are all up in the protection order, but a PO is a piece of paper and not a magic shield. You are not in a position to determine if filing is a safe move for her to make or if it will cause him to escalate. Only she can make that judgement call. You can try to get a protection order yourself, but you are asking a judge to grant the order based on one telephone call and it may not be granted. I absolutely would not file now and would wait to see if anything more comes of this, but that is not my call to make, just like her filing isn't your call to make. I would suggest you reach out to some DV resources in your immediate community to get a little better informed about DV and how it works; your husband is not the first employer in this position, nor is yours the first family to fall under 3rd party threat.

Be aware that if your husband's company 15 people instead of 4, it would be illegal to fire her under Title VII and would open you to legal action and an EEOC charge. The EEOC website literally uses this example:

An employer terminates an employee after learning she has been subjected to domestic violence, saying he fears the potential "drama battered women bring to the workplace."

I understand that she's offering to resign, but I hope you will let the above and your own state's similar laws specifically designed to protect DV victims from losing their incomes inform your decision about what is the right, moral thing to do here.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 AM on January 23, 2018 [149 favorites]

She is a victim, please don't blame her/punish her for being one. Her reactions and actions are most likely based on being the safest thing for her to do - filing for a protection order may trigger the ex and escalate things dangerously for her personally.

I would return to the police, perhaps with a lawyer, to insist on charges being filed/protection offered. In my jurisdiction you would not be able to fire someone for being a victim of domestic violence and would have a duty to protect, so look into your legal obligations as an employer. I would also ask the police to stop by the business and home to do a risk assessment of the premises.

Read The Gift of Fear. Blame The ex for his behaviour and do not make the woman responsible for how another adult it acting. Reach out to local DV shelters for resources. I'm sorry this is happening to you, it is incredibly stressful. Be supportive of your employee in taking steps to make her life, and the lives of the people around her, safe.
posted by saucysault at 3:18 AM on January 23, 2018 [41 favorites]

Well, I'm sorry for that woman, but if I were one of the other employees in the office and I found out that you knew someone was threatening to come shoot the place up and you weren't doing anything about it, I would quit immediately. So think about the fallout of losing this one person vs losing one or both of the others.

And if God forbid something did happen, I would (or my estate would) sue the pants off you.

If she's not going to help herself by even filing for an order of protection or taking any legal action against him, it's not on you to put your family and your other employees in jeopardy. You are responsible for the safety of all your employees, not just the one.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:43 AM on January 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Also, consider the fact that the police did not seem to take your concerns of a stranger threatening your family very seriously, consider how the police probably reacted to your employee complaining about her ex (and all the inherent societal biases that she should "control" him, or that she is responsible for his behaviour, or that maybe she should just get back with him since he looooves her so much) and that may give you some insight into why she has not sought any legal protection -it may not even be an option for her from your (sounds incompetent) local police.
posted by saucysault at 3:49 AM on January 23, 2018 [44 favorites]

What a terrible situation. I think there is a not-zero chance that this guy shows up at your workplace and tries to shoot everyone there. I would try to get L help by referring her to domestic violence shelters and services. Is there any way she could work remotely for a week or two, or take vacation time or unpaid leave? It does not seem fair to punish her for her ex's behavior but you need to put your own safety first. Perhaps you could support her by holding her job for her while she seeks help?
posted by emd3737 at 4:03 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Please visit Workplaces Respond for resources - stats, role plays, law, help for you. I will just say lightly that you should be speaking with experts about this (how to support a survivor-employee, safety plan for you, your team, the employee, and what your legal obligations are). Firing her/letting her go may be illegal and the ethical piece is a different conversation. Some states have laws specifically focused on this situation, some have laws that may be applicable, even if general in application. Since you are anonymous, I do not know where you are. IANYL but I would recommend not using the hivemind for this. Employment attorneys do not always know or get the intersection with DV/sexual violence/dating violence/stalking and DV folks don’t always know employment law but I would contact the National Hotline for local resources - they may have employment ones as well. Law enforcement, in the larger sense, does not always know how to respond well (I’ll call that a light critique) but does a good job often of helping employers with safety measures in the physical space - and that is key. Having a plan for this and any potential workplace violence before anything happens - just as you would for fire, earthquake, etc. The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is another good resource but I believe you have to be a member to access the full resources. An example of why you need to talk to someone: If your employee does choose to quit, in many states she is entitled to unemployment insurance due to the DV. If you force her to quit, the same may be true. This is an important benefit to survivors but many people do not know about it. Now about protection orders - 1. Please dear goddess talk to a DV expert - getting one for a survivor can be very dangerous and increase lethality - do not force her into it 2. There are workplace protection orders that employers can get but again doing so without a survivor’s approval and safety planning can significantly endanger everyone. Good luck. Hopefully you can support a good employee and work to address the real safety concerns just as you would for any threat to your business.
posted by anya32 at 4:16 AM on January 23, 2018 [69 favorites]

- No gun
- Yes stay with friends
- Find out the make/model of his car, get in the habit of circling the business each day before parking and entering.
- everything anya32 says.

This is shocking, I know. It's a great time to drop any ego and instead get very practical and serious. There are professional ways of handling this threat, do that. Not moral, not emotional, only professional.
posted by jbenben at 4:36 AM on January 23, 2018 [28 favorites]

Good door security measures are just good sense. Also, stop engaging with the guy. Monitor his threats, yes, but don't call him back to get into it verbally with him.
posted by salvia at 5:27 AM on January 23, 2018 [13 favorites]

I think it is important to recalibrate: this isn’t “this woman’s drama spilling over”, this is “an employee of yours has chosen to leave an unsafe situation.”

There may be a lot of reasons she hasn’t sought a protective order for herself: off the top of my head, it could be because she feels the violence may escalate if she does so. He may have threatened her specifically along that axis: a domestic violence protection order carries some implications for gun ownership and it is a common threat from abusive partners. It doesn’t mean she isn’t taking this seriously.

Also, when I went to court to get my protective order about ten years ago, the lawyer cost me about 2k. It may be she does not financially have this as an option/knows he will lawyer up beyond her ability to pursue.
posted by corb at 5:41 AM on January 23, 2018 [58 favorites]

Agree with everything Anya32 said. I would also continue to report every threatening phone call or email to the police. My SIL was working with DV survivors and somehow one of the guys got her name and was calling and threatening her. She reported it to the police 3 times before getting an officer to go have a conversation with the guy.
posted by MadMadam at 5:42 AM on January 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

This has happened at my office twice, both times we've called the police and both times there's been charges. I have no clue why the police told you all you could do was ask for an order of protection. You don't need the employee to do anything here, the partner has threatened you and your kids; you've got a witness who can testify to that and corroborating voicemails. Absolutely file for protective order for what it's worth, but I'd escalate the issue with the police as much as necessary to get someone who understands, if that's possible. It should go without saying, but calling someone and threatening to kill them is a crime.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:51 AM on January 23, 2018 [92 favorites]

Keep in mind too, that he is not rational. If you fire her he may take umbrage with THAT and escalate because she lost her job. You don't know what will set him off, assume any actions you take will have un-intended consequences.
posted by saucysault at 5:53 AM on January 23, 2018 [21 favorites]

I would absolutely call a local DV group and ask for assistance; they can often push the cops into taking this more seriously and they know how to navigate your local system and it's quirks and pitfalls.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:54 AM on January 23, 2018 [25 favorites]

It should go without saying, but calling someone and threatening to kill them is a crime.

Yes, yes, yes. You don't need to wait on L to do something about this. Someone committed a crime. You have a witness and supporting evidence. Accepting L's resignation is not something that is going to make you safe; threats have been made against your family and L not working there anymore is not going to magically make R forget that L ever worked there. R has committed a crime against not L but you and your family. You need to treat this situation accordingly. What would you be doing about this if this had happened with the ex of someone who already no longer worked at your company, or a total stranger? You might very well need a lawyer to help you navigate this, but again, it's because of R, not because of L.

You might as well be baffled as to why he's chosen L as a target as chosen Z. People who are abused do not invite that abuse. L did not bring this into your lives. R did.
posted by Sequence at 6:04 AM on January 23, 2018 [47 favorites]

I doubt the employee resigning will do anything to stop this. The guy specifically targeted Z using anti immigrant racist language. In the future Z should never call back, just take the voicemail to the police.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:09 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

R could have kept quiet and not told you that she knew whose number it was. She could have said "I don't know" when asked if he had a gun.

As for why your husband has become a target: There's no way to know for sure, but one possibility is that R probably respects your husband and occasionally mentions him. He's arguably more successful than she is, and probably more than the boyfriend is. Firing R makes that success gap wider and more directly in the control of your family.
posted by amtho at 6:22 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

It would help to know your location. But in absence of this, this is a solid resource I can point you to that may be able to direct you and your employee to assistance in your area.

Jeane Geiger Crisis Center
posted by zizzle at 6:28 AM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

It would be shockingly immoral and inhumane to fire someone (or cause someone to resign) for being the victim of intimate partner violence.
posted by lazuli at 6:32 AM on January 23, 2018 [73 favorites]

I came in to echo saucysault's comment- I think the aggression ship has sailed. You have to focus on threat management now. Clear other aspects away.

It's impossible to predict what the ex-boyfriend will or will not do, at this point, so don't based your decisions on what you think might appease him. Whether you fire her, keep her, she quits, whatever- he will find something in any scenario to justify whatever rage action he wants to engage in. (Not to mention the legal aspects of firing as mentioned by others. Being a DV victim seems to approach levels of protected status and why go there?)

Also, don't orient your efforts around thinking that it's L's place to change or act in a way that will mitigate the situation. R threatened Z, and your home & family. That is the core issue, regardless of what set it off. It could have easily been initiated by anything- the fact that it evolved out of L's personal life is not really relevant anymore.

What would you be doing if the calls and threats were coming from a customer, or from a random stranger who just decided to target your husband/your business? Would you be blaming someone else or thinking of economy-based strategies? I doubt it. Take action and if it means buying cameras, find a way to buy them. You'll be taking a step that may be very worthwhile not just for now, but for the long term. It's unfortunate that such things are part of the cost of doing business in today/s world. I am very sorry for everyone involved and hope you find a way out of this with as little fallout as possible.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:51 AM on January 23, 2018 [22 favorites]

It's impossible to predict what the ex-boyfriend will or will not do, at this point, so don't based your decisions on what you think might appease him. Whether you fire her, keep her, she quits, whatever- he will find something in any scenario to justify whatever rage action he wants to engage in.

Yes. For God's sake, everyone who thinks that firing this woman will somehow magically cause this "drama" to disappear clearly does not know a damn thing about DV and should stop talking about it right now. This guy has already targeted your business and family; he will do whatever the monster in his head tells him to do, and firing her isn't going to avert the risk. He might see her leaving the workplace as showing that she cares about the people there and is trying to protect them, which means he could hurt her by hurting them.

Also, and I really shouldn't have to say this, imagine one of your own kids leaving someone who beat her. Would you want her boss thinking of that as some "drama" she's not managing properly? Would you want her to lose her job so that she becomes financially dependent on someone who hits and berates her? I seriously hope not. Do not succumb to the callous selfishnesss that allows people to use the safety of their family as an excuse to shut down compassion for others.
posted by praemunire at 6:58 AM on January 23, 2018 [55 favorites]

Having everyone in the office armed to the teeth will make everything less safe. Firing/accepting the resignation of an IPV victim as they're leaving their abuser is unconscionable and cruel. Your husband shouldn't return hostile calls in the future, he should just turn them over to the police.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:58 AM on January 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

I was also wondering about this: the voicemail absolutely qualifies as Criminal Threatening, it's usually a misdemeanor, but it is a crime.

I agree you want professional domestic violence advice, professional employer specific advice. But the police either did not inform you correctly, or you left this detail out.

You have a copy of the voicemail, right?
posted by jbenben at 7:02 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

It is entirely possible that by returning the phone call and engaging with R, your husband has made himself a target independently of L. Letting L resign is not in any way going to mitigate that.

Go back to the police. Press for action on their part. Get security cameras. DO NOT BRING A GUN NO ONE IS COMFORTABLE USING INTO THE WORKPLACE.
posted by lydhre at 7:20 AM on January 23, 2018 [16 favorites]

My husband feels like we should keep her on but that he should get a gun (I am against this idea of reactive gun ownership).

You're both partially right. If your husband isn't already a skilled shooter, he should not get a gun without a plan for getting quickly trained up to use it in a stressful situation. A false sense of security engendered by a newly armed, unskilled, operator is a bad idea.

That said, if he has a suitable plan to get a gun and the training required to use it effectively, that could go a long way to restoring his sense of agency and calm in this situation.
posted by theorique at 8:11 AM on January 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Lots of good thoughts & advice up above, but chiming in to add a few basic security precautions you and your family (and anyone else R is fixating upon) should be taking until R fades away:

- Vary routines. Take different routes between office & home and change them up regularly. Don't eat lunch at the same restaurant(s) or at the same time each day. Consider changing the times at which you arrive/leave work and home.

- Harden your home and office. You mentioned you don't have the funds for active security guards but visible security cameras, door/window locks and alarm systems can be very budget-friendly. Consider setting up a buzzer-only entry system.

- Be aware of your surroundings. As another user mentioned, circle the block/parking lot before getting out of the vehicle. Hopefully you will be setting up an alarm system, but it's still a good idea to double check windows, doors and other potential points of entry before walking into the office. If anything looks opened or otherwise amiss, don't enter; call the police. Make checking out the more hidden places in your office (bathrooms, storage closets, basement) part of your daily opening tasks. Set up a buddy system so that when employees walk to/from their cars, at least one other person walks with them.

- Take information security seriously. Make your social media accounts private or better yet, don't post at all, particularly if your posting hints at location. (Employee lunch at John Doe's Sub Sandwiches? Perhaps no one is manning the office right now & R could lay in wait for you to return. Kid takes a selfie at the waterpark? That means you might not be at home and consequently it could be easier to break in.)

- Passwords. Use them. The kids should be instructed not to give out any information to strangers unless those people have a password that you & spouse have set up ahead of time. "Where's your dad?" can sound innocent but if R enlists the help of another crazy "flying monkey" to get information it might have more sinister intent.

And as others have mentioned, remember that ultimately, OPs are just paper. They might make the person who filed feel a little better & set up some consequences if they're violated, but they are not a shield. R might be all talk. Or not. Bear in mind that statistically, domestic abusers are most likely to carry out threats after their partner leaves. And someone intent on causing bodily harm isn't thinking about the legal consequences of an OP violation in the heat of the moment.
posted by muirne81 at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is a dangerous situation, and one that you neither signed up for nor want to be involved in.

This is also a situation where the rubber hits the road in terms of your commitment to community, women, and your fellow humans in general. Someone you know is in a very bad and dangerous situation, and you are contemplating abandoning them in order to make yourself potentially more safe. Instead of drawing together and offering support, you are leaning toward exiling this woman from your community and her current livelihood. You are already talking about her "drama" as if this is two teenagers fighting on Facebook. It's as if you are in a lifeboat with someone and you want to toss them out into shark infested waters because you think she called the sharks. I know this is scary, but my guess is that you would be more supportive of a stranger you saw lying on the street bloodied from a beating than you are considering being toward L.

There are things you can do to make yourselves and your business more safe than it is currently as detailed above. (I don't really think buying a gun is among them.) But, the truth is that you cannot make yourselves totally safe. This is a time to be brave, and not in some abstract way about principles or even a mundane way related to doing something you don't want to do but feel is important. This is about showing mutual love and respect for someone that you know fairly intimately, it's bravery of the sort that the best of humanity is built upon. It is standing up to a bully, it is protecting a victim of domestic abuse (bc calling her work is an act of domestic abuse.) This is literally THE moment. That doesn't make it easy or not scary, but, if you want to be a good person, it does make it necessary.
posted by OmieWise at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2018 [45 favorites]

Honestly when I read this the first thing that popped into my head was "he called Z to get L fired." I am by no means an expert on these situations but that seems patently obvious to me. I understand that you need to consider your family's safety first, but I would be highly morally conflicted - at best - about playing into this monster's hands.

I think you need to get some security cameras. Put them on a credit card, do what you need to do. Everyone else has given you much better advice than I could, but I'll add to the chorus on that.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:30 AM on January 23, 2018 [23 favorites]

Why do you think firing this woman will get her ex-boyfriend to leave you alone? He's already zeroed in on your family, and you don't say anything about him demanding that she be fired -- so why would you think firing her would change anything?
posted by crazy with stars at 9:48 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think the LEO was probably wrong to not arrest the the guy in the first place. He called and made a terrorist threat. That's not only a crime, it could - depending on the language used - be a Federal crime. Call the DA, don't try to handle this by yourself.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:56 AM on January 23, 2018 [16 favorites]

> Also, consider the fact that the police did not seem to take your concerns of a stranger threatening your family very seriously, consider how the police probably reacted to your employee complaining about her ex (and all the inherent societal biases that she should "control" him, or that she is responsible for his behaviour, or that maybe she should just get back with him since he looooves her so much) and that may give you some insight into why she has not sought any legal protection -it may not even be an option for her from your (sounds incompetent) local police.

This this this.

Please do some reading on domestic violence and put your feelings on hold as to whether your employee "seems" alarmed enough or proactive enough. Emotional and physical abuse are exhausting and embarrassing to endure. I sympathize at how scary and frustrating this situation is for you, but, look, you need to do the right thing by your fellow human.

No brainers: No, you should not accept her resignation or fire her. Yes, you should lock the doors of the office.

I personally have very VERY VERY strong feelings against reactive gun ownership and even the concept of gun ownership for personal protection, so I will recuse myself from offering any advice on that.
posted by desuetude at 9:57 AM on January 23, 2018 [15 favorites]

I don’t know what kind of work this is, but would it also be possible to have everyone work at home or a temporary office for a month or two? That might help take everyone, including L, more out of harms way as you figure this out. It might also help keep all your employees. (I would quit if you made me show up to that office without any safety changes, honestly.)

Also, follow anya32’s advice first.
posted by Vaike at 10:00 AM on January 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Hi there. Survivor of an abusive relationship here. I really really hope you decide to stand behind your employee. It might not be the easiest choice, but it’s the right one.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2018 [20 favorites]

Don't even consider accepting her resignation unless you've checked what the laws are in your locality in regards to employees that are domestic abuse victims. In some areas, employers have legally required obligations for this type of circumstance, and it could easily be assumed that she felt forced to resign by your words or actions. If she hasn't already been in touch with local domestic violence advocates, she should be encouraged to - and you can likely ask them for safety suggestions, too.

Of course the doors should be locked. Any already-available security measures should be utilized, and inexpensive additional measures should be implemented. (Seriously. Indoor security cameras are as little as $20 these days.) Locks and cameras are cheap compared to medical bills and funerals.

As for why he focused on your husband? The employee is female. Your husband is male. It's relatively common for an abusive ex to irrationally decide that of course, the victim "must" be cheating with their co-worker and that's why they've left, and not because of the oh-so-obvious BECAUSE THEY'RE ABUSIVE truth.
posted by stormyteal at 11:18 AM on January 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Y'all could hire an armed security guard for at least a couple days for what it will realistically cost to get, supply, and properly paperwork a gun, plus practice/training in its use. If you want a serious show of force, an off-duty cop in the doorway is a) a serious show of force b) possibly another resource to get your case taken seriously c) something you can likely accomplish in less than a day.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:19 AM on January 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

I strongly feel that we should accept L’s resignation. Her drama has spilled over into our lives in a very unsafe way. I would perhaps feel different if she were alarmed or taking any sort of legal action. Her behavior/reaction has the feel of a woman leaving an abusive situation but not realizing the danger. I do not need the stress of checking out the windows before I leave my house.

And your employee doesn't need the added stress of having her character judged so harshly and losing her job when she most desperately needs funds coming in so that she can maintain her distance from a man who abused her so much that he felt confident and comfortable calling her boss to try to get her fired. Because, as has already been mentioned, that is what he's trying to do. He's using you and your husband as his latest weapons, and you seem willing and eager to be his tool. Think on that. Also think on the legality of firing a domestic violence victim because her abuser has widened his target area. Think on your willingness to cast a DV victim as "drama" so that it's easier for you to abandon her to her abuser.

Mostly, just think before you make any decisions here, because going with your gut feelings is leading you down the path of some pretty shameful behavior.
posted by palomar at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2018 [18 favorites]

Whatever else you decide to do, tell your husband to lock the goddamn door to the office.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:30 PM on January 23, 2018 [20 favorites]

About phone specifically: do not, do not engage with R by returning his calls. Rather than blocking his number, which may "inspire" him to come to the office in person, let his messages go directly to voicemail. That way you have a record of his abusive behavior. Document dates, times and content. You'll be tempted to lash out at him or try to shut him down; don't. Inform every employee about phone protocol. If he manages to get through, hang up up calmly. R may try to use alternative numbers. Do not respond. For stalkers, any attention is good attention. You are trying to extinguish the behavior. That means no contact.

If R does start calling regularly, consider changing the main number of your business. Don't post the new number publicly, but send out a private email informing your business customers of the situation. Ask them to keep the new number secret. Then, keep the original line and let R's bullshit go directly to voicemail. If R realizes you've changed numbers, he may track down the new one; but if you let him keep calling the old line, you've boxed him in and can track his abuse.
posted by fritillary at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Your husband either is safe enough not to lock doors, or unsafe enough to dismiss an innocent employee and desire a weapon for self-defense, but he cannot logically be both.

I get it; small businesses have tight budgets, and right now you feel like sitting ducks. Locking your doors and giving staffers keys or magnetic ID badges will do more to protect everyone than will having guns in an unsecured building among unskilled shooters. As others have noted, it will also do more to protect your bottom line.

Where I live, I see a trifecta of “Wild West” attitudes that seem to be at play here:
  • Idealizing guns as a magic vaccine against real or imagined danger
  • Stubborn reluctance to lock doors to homes and businesses, even when those places contain loaded weapons that might be stolen or used against you
  • Passive eagerness to believe victims want or deserve what they get...the active form of which is heedless vigilantism in the face of danger, because de-escalating is seen as “weak.”
That trifecta is an excellent recipe for “drama.” Scrub every trace of it from your office culture.
posted by armeowda at 11:21 PM on January 23, 2018 [20 favorites]

Sorry if this is ignorant (I have no idea how the system works) but shouldn't the police be treating this seriously enough that the incident shows up in whatever record gets included in the background check should R try to purchase a gun?

Also, regarding the comments here about other employees potentially being upset about Z not doing enough to protect them... I would respect an employer going to bat for his employee and refusing to fire her, but I would be furious and scared if I knew my employer was bringing a gun into the workplace so he could join in a gun battle, not to mention scoffing at obvious measures like locking the doors. Times a million if it turned out my employer was not actually a well-trained gun owner.
posted by trig at 11:58 PM on January 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

Does anyone else know what the guy looks like? Photos? Make and model of the car he drives? Where he works? At the very least try to get more info about him so you're not jumping at shadows. Notify your kids' school too.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:11 AM on January 24, 2018 [11 favorites]

An excellent example of extending compassion even further: a local media company in a similar situation asked the woman instead, "By how much can we offer you in a salary raise to leave permanently and support yourself and children so that you can stay safe?"
posted by OnefortheLast at 7:38 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

The ethical, legal and humanity aspects have been fully covered here, but I thought to address the human relations aspect:

She has not taken any legal action against him and does not seem inclined to file for an order of protection for herself.

If no direct physical violence has occurred to her body, she will not be able to obtain a protection order. She may, over the course of months and with the help of a good lawyer, be able to obtain a restraining order, but violations of this are dealt with thought the courts and not law enforcement. There are lesser court orders available such as temporary ones up to 2 weeks and no contact orders, but again they offer no police protection and are dealt with solely though the court system and believe it not not, actually require the cooperation of the abuser.

I would perhaps feel different if she were alarmed or taking any sort of legal action.

The most dangerous time statically after a women leaves her abuser is the time immediety following, filing for an order during this time could very well escalate her(and your) endangerment.

Her drama has spilled over into our lives in a very unsafe way.
The local law enforcement was called and briefed.

These two statements directly conflict each other. Why is it that you feel the impact if the situation to brushed off as inconvenient "drama" for this woman, while feeling that law enforcement should aid you personally for it. Your first statement, "Her drama," comes across as blatantly appalling and entirely heartless.

Her behavior/reaction has the feel of a woman leaving an abusive situation but not realizing the danger.
This should rightly evoke your empathy: she is so accustomed to the abuse and threats, it has become normalized to a point that she is no longer reacting to it as danger. You appear as though possibly overly focused on criticising this woman as a person over problem solving the urgency of the situation as a whole.

I do not need the stress of checking out the windows before I leave my house.
No one needs that stress, no one. Until we all take a strong stand agaist domestic violence, theats and bullying, together as community, unfortunatly these things are a reality for many people.
Please for a second, imagine instead the stress of not being able to leave your home because you've lost your job, or have been forced to resign by taking responsibility for the actions of an abuser, and that you need not look outside your windows for potential danger; your abuser lives inside with you.

My husband feels like we should keep her on but that he should get a gun (I am against this idea of reactive gun ownership). He says that because she works with specialized software, it will be hard to replace her and get the new person up to speed.

With all due respect, could you perhaps be feeling jealous or threatened at all that your husband is defending and suggesting protective measures to be taken for a newly single female employee?

Also, any safety tips for us? This is so not what we need in our lives right now.

What about safety tips for the people who depend upon you for their financial security and income? She doest need this is her life either. Your lack of compassion, understanding and empathy here is rather shocking to be honest and comes across as bitterness and contempt.

I wholly suggest you take steps to inform yourself, and stat, on domestic violence. It's a very real social issue worthy of having a full understanding of and deeply affects the well being and livelihood of far too many people.
posted by OnefortheLast at 9:29 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

As per above:

Record phone messages.
Lock the doors.
No guns.
Ask for a legal viewpoint.

I can understand why you might want to characterize her plight as "drama." But if you back up a step you'll see that the antagonist here is the abuser, not the abused, then you can engage common sense and compassion. Don't let fear be your working metric, because fear blinds you to caution. You've taken the first step by asking for opinions.

This situation equates getting a firearm with subsidizing fear, not preparing a defense. So, again, no guns. You will end up with a scared person holding a gun, or a person holding a gun who's filled with false bravado, and who has an unrealistic notion about how gun fights work: hint, this in not something to OJT into. In real life, your "protector" with a gun is more likely to commit one of the degrees of felonious manslaughter than self-defense.

Also, I like the idea (above) of posting a picture of this asshole somewhere in the office, so everyone will know what he looks like.
posted by mule98J at 11:44 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I understand why people are reacting so strongly to the tone of the OP, but I'm not sure how productive it is to try and shame the poster for being terrible. This is a stressful situation for everyone, including OP and OP's family, and while feelings of anger or frustration or resentment towards L might not be fair, let alone noble of spirit, they're understandable all the same. Having to deal with an asshole threatening you and/or your loved ones sucks. It sucks for L, but it also sucks for OP.

Also, I like the idea (above) of posting a picture of this asshole somewhere in the office, so everyone will know what he looks like.

Agreed that ensuring everyone in the office (and their families) know to avoid R is a good idea, but posting the picture means that L is probably going to have to keep looking at it, and that seems unnecessarily stressful. Plus posting a reminder of Menacing Dude next to the coffee machine might keep everyone else on edge, as well, and ruminating. Everyone knowing to recognise his car, face, and phone number(s) should be sufficient -- plus keeping doors locked during business hours, and making sure no employees have to leave the building on their own.
posted by halation at 11:53 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am not a lawyer.
..mainly anti-immigrant, anti-Arab stuff Are you immigrants and/or of Arabic descent> Is L? R is committing hate crimes by threatening you and making slurs based on national origin, as well as domestic violence. Keep any messages left on voicemail. I would go back to the police in person and probably go to the ACLU(American Civil Liberties Union). At the police dept. I would ask to speak to the person who handles hate/ racially-driven crimes. I would also contact the family violence program in your area, there will be one, and they should have expertise. Ask the police/ district attorney's office to help you get a court order to allow you to tape calls from R, which I believe is illegal/ not useful in court without such an order.

There is a security system already in place Talk to the security company. You should be able to add panic button(s) at not much cost. That's one fairly affordable way to help your other 2 employees feel safer. Security sales are often high-commission, negotiate hard for a better price. Panic buttons should get an immediate response from security and/or police. During this episode of high alert, ask them to not charge you for false alarms. Ask the police to drive by frequently; it may help a little.

Gun? If your husband insists on getting a gun, he should absolutely get gun training, a trigger lock, and a gun safe for any location he anticipates keeping the gun. You have kids, and accidental gun deaths are incredibly common. Guns require careful ownership, and without training, are not useful protection. Even with training, the protective value is questionable.

Your husband should be able to make the small effort of locking the door so you and your employees will feel safer. I'll bet everybody has mobile phones, but if you have a phone system, make sure 911 is programmed as a 1 button speed dial on every phone.

I would talk to L and suggest she contact the family violence program in your area individually, and have a safety plan. I would not terminate her employment. If she has accrued vacation, this might be a good time for her to visit family in another area, for her own safety.

Do you have any business insurance? Long shot, but if you do, maybe they can help.

It's absolutely rotten that you are going through this. It's a random business expense, it's scary, some racist bully is threatening your kids. I hope you will not empower this bully by giving in and I hope you will do your best to help your employee manage this rotten situation.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you are (or perceived to be) of the ethnic group the guy was ranting about, then you can and should escalate reporting this incident as a potential Hate Crime. I want to say this might be something you report to the FBI?

Instead of a gun, contact a lawyer and find out if you need to alert the FBI, the local District Attorney, state law enforcement, or whoever will get this addressed in a serious fashion. Often having a lawyer advocating for you with law enforcement gets you better service.

I missed that detail originally and it's been a few days. I hope you see this and everyone is safe.
posted by jbenben at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

One other suggestion. If your office is near other businesses, like in an office park, you might consider distributing a photograph of R, or at least a description, to nearby businesses and asking them to immediately contact you if they see someone who looks like R hanging around in the vicinity (e.g., sitting in a parked car).
posted by Transl3y at 6:18 AM on January 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

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