By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

The fatal shootings of three University of Alabama-Huntsville professors during a faculty meeting by another professor reportedly upset about being denied tenure at the school has shined a bright light on the troublesome issue of workplace violence. The tragedy has also raised concerns about how thoroughly background checks should research the past histories of employees. 

In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, two step-daughters of one victim questioned how the woman arrested and charged in the shooting deaths — Biology professor Amy Bishop, 42 — could get a job working at the school after reports surfaced about violent incidents in Bishop’s past.

ABC News reported that investigators may re-examine the 1986 shooting death of Bishop’s brother at the hands of Bishop, which was ruled accidental at the time, and also revealed that Bishop was a suspect in a mail bombing attempt on a Harvard Medical School professor in 1993. Investigators told ABC that while investigating the bombing they found a novel on Bishop’s computer describing a scientist who had shot her brother.

After learning about Bishop’s alleged violent past, the step-daughters of one victim told Good Morning America that they hoped the shooting would lead to more thorough background checks for the school’s faculty and staff. They also believed Bishop obtained a list of professors who did not vote in favor of her tenure before the shootings, which left three people injured in addition to the three fatalities. 

“Workplace violence” is loosely defined as threats, assaults, and violent acts — including murder — which occur in, or are related to, the workplace. While there is no one cure-all treatment to eliminate the threat of workplace violence, employers should remain vigilant and closely watch all conditions and events in the workplace in order to ensure the safety and security of employees and customers. 

To help prevent workplace violence, employers may choose to initiate a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) that includes a wide range of tools, techniques, and services to help mitigate the risk of hiring or retaining a potentially dangerous employee. Background checks are considered the cornerstone of an effective SHP.

Protecting workers from workplace violence is an essential reason why employers should conduct pre-employment screening — including extensive and far-reaching background checks — on prospective employees. The goal of a Safe Hiring Program is to ensure that employers follow proper procedures during background checks and pay attention while hiring and retaining workers in order to minimize the potential for workplace violence. 

For more information about workplace violence, background checks, and Safe Hiring Programs, please visit  Employment Screening Resources at: