Group Works to Keep Workplace Safe

Employee Behavioral Assessment Team helps mitigate potential risks

Duke's Employee Behavioral Assessment Team meets monthly and on an as-needed basis to assess reported incidents to help mitigate potential risks and help provide a safe work environment.

A Duke employee files a restraining order against his or her significant other. There's concern the significant other may confront the staff member at work.

How can Duke respond?

One way is bringing the concern to the attention of Duke's Employee Behavioral Assessment Team, a group of 10 campus representatives from Human Resources, Duke Police, Employee Occupational Health and Wellness, the Provost Office and other areas.

The team, which was created in 2009, meets monthly and on an as-needed basis to assess reported incidents to help mitigate potential risks and help provide a safe work environment. The team may call on supervisors and refer employees to Duke resources for additional assistance. Most concerns involve potential for domestic violence, threats from coworkers or ongoing verbal harassment.

"Establishing behavioral assessment teams have increasingly been viewed as a workforce best practice," said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration and chair of Duke's assessment team. "The group has allowed us to more systematically assess and manage risks."

To bring a concern to the team, a staff or faculty member can contact Duke Police, Staff and Labor Relations in Human Resources or talk with his or her supervisor. A supervisor may also report concerning behaviors, and the team will evaluate the situation and provide support.

After the matter goes to the behavioral assessment team, members will then assess whether a situation is low, moderate or high risk and whether it needs a follow-up response such as a referral to Duke's Personal Assistance Service or discussion with Duke Police.

"Our 35,000 employees are the ones most likely to see or experience concerning behaviors, so if they're addressed early, we're able to prevent something bad happening in the future," said John Dailey, chief of Duke Police. "Working with employees confidentially and having a team that looks after the best interest of employees fits into Duke's concept of shared campus safety."

Members of the Employee Behavioral Assessment Team may hold additional meetings to address concerns about an issue, said Denise Evans, executive director of Duke's Staff and Labor Relations and Staff and Family Programs. She said having a team of representatives from across Duke offers a holistic approach to problem solving, especially since it means no single person - whether a supervisor, Human Resources representative or another - is making decisions to manage conflict.

"It's really about taking preventative measures since it provides an opportunity to review and maintain safety plans," Evans said. "It's a lot better than having something happen and then wondering, 'what do we do now?' "