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LETTER: Willful ignorance of workplace issues prevails

LETTER: Willful ignorance of workplace issues prevails

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Willful ignorance of workplace issues prevails

The FLS editorial on July 9 discussed the municipal employee in Virginia Beach who entered his workplace in May 2019 and murdered 12 people [“Pay more attention to stressed-out workers”].

Subsequent local and state investigations of the tragedy were reported as inconclusive. A proposed state commission to investigate the incident did not get through the 2020 General Assembly.

Two years later, a more thorough FBI investigation indicated that there had been unresolved employee issues in Virginia Beach, but the FLS editorial read that report as a matter of workplace stress, concluding that we cannot really know what happened.

There are nearly two million acts of workplace violence in the United States per year. I have witnessed some of them. A co-worker and I tried to report incidents of five women employees being bullied in Fredericksburg City Hall. We reported them to the city manager and to three elected officials.

Despite corroborating documentation, no one followed up. Some expressed disbelief.

As for those five women, most of them quit the city workforce. The most recent victim was let go during the pandemic. No other Virginia jurisdiction reduced its work force during the pandemic.. That latest victim of workplace abuse is now conveniently gone.

In government service, we diligently account for fiscal assets through audits that ensure compliance with specific standards of accountability. We do not have any corresponding independent authority that looks at compliance with basic personnel practices.

From the response to the Virginia Beach incident, it appears that looking too closely might risk legal exposure. Willful ignorance prevails.

Most workplace issues do not result in murder, but addressing the workplace environment is a basic management imperative. Without responsible leadership, real people get hurt. Those who purport to lead should remember that unless everyone matters, no one matters.

Erik Nelson


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