Today, workplace violence is an issue that is receiving a lot of attention since the rate of violent acts in businesses and organizations is increasing. Unfortunately, violence in the workplace is not a new occurrence, as Matthew Beck committed a violent act toward his supervisors 15 years ago. While Beck’s act of violence surprised his coworkers and family, Beck was a cognitive aggressor whose history of mental health issues was protected under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On March 6, 1998, Matthew Beck went to work at the offices of the Connecticut State Lottery in Newington, Connecticut and shot three of his coworkers. According to Jonathan Rabinovitz, Beck then ran after the president of the lottery, Ortho Brown, and proceeded to shoot him to death. Beck’s workers were stunned, as Beck had been an employee of the Connecticut State Lottery for nine years. However, Beck’s past revealed a troubled young man, and his history of mental health issues may have contributed to the shooting.
Beck’s history of mental health issues can be traced back to his college years. Jonathan Rabinovitz confirmed that Beck tried slitting his wrists in college, and he had also tried to take his life a year before the shooting by overdosing on pills. In 1996, Beck became depressed, and he had to be hospitalized twice due to his mental health issues. However, Jonathan Rabinovitz found that Beck had been most recently depressed over the lack of payments for his work at the Connecticut State Lottery. Beck had filed a grievance, and he was granted a paid leave to deal with stress related issues. Unfortunately, Beck was granted permission to return to work early, and a week after his return, he decided to gun down those who he felt was hindering his growth within the organization.
The shooting carried out by Beck came as a surprise to many of his coworkers and family members since his aggression was not displayed outright. According to The Center for Aggression Management, primal aggressors are ready to explode at any moment, while cognitive aggressors are more reserved and keep their thoughts and behaviors subdued. After assessing the aggression model, Beck could be classified as a cognitive aggressor since his actions were not deemed as a threat. For example, Jonathan Rabinovitz reported that Beck had been complaining about his unfair treatment at work and also being subjected to workplace bullying, and some coworkers thought that Beck may snap. In contrast, Beck’s family did not view him as a threat to the public, as most of his actions had revolved around hurting himself. Therefore, since Beck did not have any previous displays of aggression at home or at work, his actions relate more to those of the cognitive aggressor.
After reviewing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Handbook, it can be concluded that the Connecticut State Lottery could have done more to prevent the shootings at the company. First, the officials at the Connecticut State Lottery followed procedure by letting Beck file a grievance with the company. Further, the company did the right thing by allowing Beck to take a medical leave from work to allow him to deal with his issues. Finally, the organization acted properly when they allowed Beck to return to work with permission from a doctor.
However, despite these actions taken by the Connecticut State Lottery, the organization failed to take precautions to protect their employees. For instance, Jonathan Rabinovitz found that coworkers had openly discussed Beck and feared that he may be dangerous. Unfortunately, none of these employees were ever mandated to bring this to the attention of their supervisors. Also, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Handbook explained that an indicator of violence is when an employee has problems with bosses or coworkers (17). Nevertheless, Beck did openly have problems with supervisors in the organization, and no course of action was taken to protect employees from Beck. Finally, the Connecticut State Lottery failed to protect workers by not installing metal detectors and by not having security guards in the office. If these steps were taken, Beck’s gun would have been immediately found when he entered the building, and guards could have arrested him or stopped Beck before he began shooting.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a law that protects the confidentiality of a person’s medical records. Unfortunately, this legal constraint makes it difficult for management teams to anticipate and respond to potential threats by employees since managers do not have access to the medical records of their employees. Therefore, this constraint made it impossible for managers at the Connecticut State Lottery to know about Beck’s history with depression and his previous suicide attempts. Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that companies do not discriminate when hiring employees. As a result, even if Beck revealed his mental health history to managers, they would still be required to hire Beck under the Americans with Disabilities Act since this act protects mental health issues in employees.
After reviewing Beck’s case, it can be concluded that most incidences of workplace violence can be prevented. First, workplace violence can be prevented by upgrading the security in and around office buildings. As previously stated, if the Connecticut State Lottery had metal detectors at its front doors, Beck would never have made it into the office with a gun. Then, workplace violence can be prevented by teaching employees sign of potentially violent aggressors. For instance, employees should be trained to recognize signs of violence and aggression, and then they should be mandated to report these signs to management. Finally, to prevent workplace violence incidents, every organization should have a plan of action in place so employees know where to run and hide and who to notify if an act takes place.
To conclude, Matthew Beck was a cognitive aggressor whose history of mental health issues was protected under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. While Beck’s coworkers and family members were surprised by his actions on March 6, 1998, Beck’s history of depression and his anger toward his supervisors led to the shooting at the Connecticut State Lottery. Fortunately, if organizations increase security in and around their office buildings and train employees how to recognize and report potential signs of violence, incidents of workplace violence could increase and be prevented.
Rabinovitz, Jonathan. “Rampage in Connecticut: The Overview; Connecticut Lottery Worker Kills 4 Bosses, then Himself.” The New York Times. 1998. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
The Center for Aggression Management. “Solutions for Today’s Challenges.” 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Handbook. “Dealing with Workplace Violence.” 1998. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.