Stalking affects millions of women and men across the United States at any given point in time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes many situations in which stalking devolves into some form of workplace violence. Any working person needs to have a general understanding of stalking and workplace violence. Hopefully, you never become the target of a stalker. However, because stalking is so prevalent, you may be part of a workplace in which a coworker is victimized by a stalker.
Basic Facts About Stalking
Before diving deeper into the subject of stalking and workplace violence, understanding some basic facts about stalking is important. First of all, stalking is surprisingly commonplace. Approximately one in six women and one in 17 men will experience stalking during their lifetimes.
Second, stalking tends to start early in life. Almost 54 percent of female victims and 41 percent of male victims report having experienced stalking before they reach the age of 25.
Third, stalking can result in a victim experiencing emotional and mental health issues. These include depression and PTSD. In addition, 68 percent of female stalking victims and 70 percent of male stalking victims experience threats of physical harm.
Common Stalking Tactics
There is a number of different tactics commonly used by a stalker. Much of this conduct does occur in a victim’s workplace. These include:
- Unwanted phone calls
- Unwanted emails, instant messages, text messages, voice messages, or social media messages
- Approaching a victim or showing up unwanted, such as at the victim’s home, workplace, or school
- Leaving strange or potentially threatening items for the victim to find
- Watching, following, or tracking a victim
- Sneaking into the victim’s home or car and doing things to scare the victim or let them know the perpetrator had been there
Case of Richard Farley
There’ve been numerous cases of stalking and workplace violence. With that said, the case of Richard Farley garnered headlines around the world and remains one of the most notorious cases in which stalking impacted a workplace.
Farley was an employee of ELS, a tech firm in Sunnyvale, California. Beginning in 1984, Farley persistently stalked a coworker named Laura Black. In early 1988, Black obtained a temporary restraining order against Farley. A hearing was scheduled about two weeks after the issuance of the temporary decree for a permanent restraining order against Farley.
The day before the hearing on making the restraining order permanent, Farley arrived at ELS. He opened fire, killing seven people and wounding four others. Black was shot but survived the attack.
Farley ultimately surrendered to SWAT officers. He was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder. He has been on death row at San Quentin since his conviction.
Expert Analysis of Stalkers, the Workplace, and Workplace Violence
John Cohen is a former official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He currently is a criminal justice professor. Cohen maintains that it is not uncommon for stalkers to become violent towards their targets. This particularly is the case when a stalker perceives that his or her target is spurning that individual.
According to Cohen, the Farley case is something of a “starting point” in an era in which stalkers and spurned intimate partners have become particularly violent in their responses in the workplace. He cites the horrific 2017 shooting at the church in Sutherland, Texas. While not classified as a stalking incident, the case does have some of the earmarks that are seen in situations involving stalker and violence in settings like workplaces.
In the Sutherland church case, the shooter became angry with his mother-in-law, a parishioner of the parish who was at services. The man went to the church, opened fire, and killed 26 people. He then turned a gun on himself and took his own life.
Stalkers and other spurned individuals who engage in acts of violence want not only the specific target of their obsession or angst to suffer, but they want to hurt as many other people as possible. A stalker who engages in workplace violence has an appreciation that he or she not only hurts those at the business but harms their families and other loved ones as well.
Common Signs of Workplace Stalking
The best way to protect against workplace staking turning into workplace violence is identifying and addressing the situation as soon as possible. There are some commonplace signs that stalking is occurring in the workplace. These include:
- Tracking the victim using GPS or cameras
- Gathering information on the victim via listening devices, computer spyware, or the Internet
- Sending unwanted online messages or images
- Posing as the victim online and posting unflattering or false information about them
- Using information acquired online to intimidate the victim by calling them or showing up at their home or workplace
- Leaving gifts on the victim’s desk
- Taking “souvenirs” from the victim’s workspace
- Monitoring the victim while at work
- Accessing the victim’s personal information through confidential workplace files
- Need to be physically close to the victim or touching them
- Staring at the victim for long periods of time without speaking