Just after lunch last Wednesday, violence erupted in
Milwaukee, WI at the famous Molson Coors factory, when an employee walked in with
a loaded firearm and began shooting, leaving 5 victims and the shooter
deceased. The violence is another in a string of shootings in the workplace that
has corporate leadership wondering what their role is in limiting these acts of
The victims in the Milwaukee Molson Coors shooting were identified as Jesus Valle Jr., 33; Gennady Levshetz, 61; Trevor Wetselaar, 33; Dana Walk, 57; and Dale Hudson, 60. The shooter, electrician Anthony N. Ferrill, 51, is deceased as well. Those victims, Ferrill’s coworkers, are remembered by the dozens of friends and family they left behind, as well as a community rocked by violence. Molson Coors chief executive Gavin Hattersley said in a news conference, “They were husbands, they were fathers, and they were friends. They were a part of the fabric of our company and our community, and we will miss them terribly.”
While many acts of violence in the workplace are perpetrated
by former employees, Anthony Ferrill was a current employee of Molson Coors.
Ferrill worked in the building’s utilities department. While authorities have
not established a clear motive for the shooting, according to the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ferrill had a history of dispute with his coworkers
that many have speculated finally came to a head in the events leading up to last
week’s shooting. The dispute may have had racial overtones, with Ferrill
accusing other employees of discriminating against him in the workplace. He had
suspicions that other employees were trespassing at his home, bugging his
electronic devices, and disturbing his property. With the exception of one man,
Ferrill had previous confrontations with all the victims, yet police have
declined to comment on how the shooting occurred.
When shocking incidents of violence like this occur in the workplace,
it’s not uncommon to hear from leadership in the organization that they are ‘shocked,’
or ‘astonished’ at the events that have taken place, or that the violence was
perpetrated by a member of their organization. The reality is that active
shooter events and other forms of violence in the workplace can usually be
anticipated and prevented if leadership is not asleep at the wheel.
Most workplace crises, from violence to theft, can be traced
back to faulty internal operations. That’s why so many corporations are seeking
to have their daily operations evaluated by independent investigators and risk
assessment firms. These investigators come into your business and begin examining
hiring processes, onboarding materials, employee engagement, and the turnover
rate in an attempt to identify the problems that cause frustration within the organization.
In the unfortunate example of Molsen Coors, there was obviously room for more
supervision with regards to intra-employee conflict. If the alleged
intra-employee conflict had been given more attention, it might not have ended
Corporate Culture Audit investigators can provide leadership with the insight they need to improve their daily operations. Investigators can review hiring protocol, identifying risk factors and lack of oversight. They can review security systems, both in cyberspace, and at brick-and-mortar locations to identify weaknesses that would leave the company vulnerable to attack. These are measures that could have prevented the violence that broke out at Molson Coors, and they can protect your company, too.
If your corporation or organization needs a corporate
culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote
on our corporate culture audit program. Our program is built to fit businesses
of any size and is customizable to fit you investigative needs. Call
317-951-1100 or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com
Employers across the country have operated in a sea of gray area when it comes to confidentiality among employees regarding internal investigations. The question remained whether or not employers were able to require employees to keep internal investigations internal while they were in full swing. Prior to the new year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finally answered that question.
Previously, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had
taken a position that employers could not require employees to keep ongoing
internal investigations confidential because it generally violated labor law. Section
7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees “the right to
self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain
collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” Universal
requirement of confidentiality could potentially interfere with that law.
Confidentiality in internal investigations was instead dealt with on a
case-by-case basis, with no precedent for blanket confidentiality. This topic
has been in review by the NLRB since May of 2019, but it was only recently that
the board announced that they had reversed their position.
By their very nature, internal investigations are already a big headache for many employers. Further compounding these frustrations is the ideation that no internal investigation can generate meaningful results unless the integrity of the internal investigation is maintained by all employees of the corporation or organization. This new standard of approval by the National Labor Relations Board is a categorical win for employers. The win comes down to one word—duration. In articulating their decision, the majority wrote,
“There are obvious mutual interests to be served by encouraging and allowing employees to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisal from the subject of the investigation. Among other considerations, such reporting promotes the goals of the antidiscrimination statutes by helping employers eradicate workplace discrimination and deal with it promptly and effectively when it occurs.”
This articulation is indirectly evocative of the cycle of
corporate culture, a process by which cause and effect on the parts of both
leadership and employees in pursuit of improved operations leads to a healthy
corporate culture for the entire workforce.
While there are concerns that the future of this reversal
may affect an employee’s ability to organize, the projection of this reversal
is very good news for internal investigations. In any investigation, the
control of information is critical to finding solutions to the corporate
crisis, allowing investigators to use tried-and-true methodology to get to the
root of the problem. With the NLRB finally taking a position that allows
employers to require confidentiality, the integrity of those internal
investigations can now be maintained from the onset, leading to clearer
solutions for the pervasive issues that malign corporations and organizations.
Corporations and institutions with relative high visibility have a lot to lose when internal misconduct is exposed. If you are an institution, such as a school, prison, or government body, internal misconduct can strongly shake the public’s confidence in how that misconduct will impact the groups and communities being served. Embarrassing, pervasive issues, such as a business party culture, can really drive down faith in your brand. If you’re a large corporate chain, such as Walmart, or McDonald’s, your corporate culture is subject to criticism from current/past employees, with heavy emphasis on how that corporate culture effects both productivity and the workforce.
Just one week after ringing in the new year, McDonald’s current CEO, Chris Kempczinski, has announced that he plans to bring an end to the business party culture embroiled in their corporate atmosphere. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kempczinski, “…is seeking to restore a more professional culture at McDonald’s after what some current and former employees described as an environment influenced by his predecessor’s late-night socializing with some executives and staffers at bars and flirtations with female employees…” This business party culture was pervasive. His predecessor, Steve Eastbrook, was terminated in November of 2019 after he confessed to having a relationship with an employee. What is particularly problematic about these circumstances is that healthy corporate culture begins with leadership. When leadership behaves ethically within the organization, employees are more likely to follow that example. When executives, managers, and supervisors are not held accountable for bad behavior, it sends a message to the rest of the organization that poisons the well of corporate culture.
But inappropriate personal conduct is not the only challenge
currently facing McDonald’s culture. Strains imposed by the franchises’
renovation program has franchisees challenging their relationship with the
corporation. In addition, unions are still reeling from a decision handed down
by a national union-organizing supervision board, which states that the
corporation will no longer be liable for labor violations committed by its
franchisees. Labor advocates who made their concerns apparent to the board were
ignored, and the decision came down with a 2-1 vote. In the background,
employees continue their cause of “Fight For 15,” in reference to their desire
to have McDonald’s starting wage raised to $15 per hour.
Kempczinski’s promise to diffuse a business party culture within the corporation is a promising start—however, in order to make meaningful changes to the corporation, there needs to be a top-to-bottom evaluation of internal processes, and of the behavior exhibited by leadership—both in the public view and behind closed doors. That is why so many institutions and corporations are subjecting their internal operations to a corporate culture audit to ensure that they won’t be caught unawares about the debilitating, pervasive issues within their organization. Regardless of quality, corporate culture moves in a cycle. The actions of leadership filter down through the workforce, influencing productivity and engagement from employees. Employees either contribute positively or negatively to the corporation as a result of that leadership, and that leads directly back to leadership in a supervisory capacity. For the sake of a long-beloved American corporation, let’s hope that Kempczinski follows through on his promise for change.
It’s mind-boggling to think that some of the most controversial scandals in our country’s history have taken place only in the last decade. Corporate scandal is a hot media item, with the misbehavior of employees at all levels facing public scrutiny. Information on corporations and their corporate culture is more visible than ever as experts continue to place more and more importance on work-life balance, and satisfaction in the workplace remaining the driving force behind employee engagement. As technology and the ubiquity of accessible information continues to advance, private United States citizens are becoming more informed about the largest corporations in the nation, how their behavior effects their corporate footprint, and how their own consumerism can affect these corporations.
BP Oil Spil
There’s no better place to start than at the beginning. In April of 2010, the oil and gas conglomerate BP began the new decade with an oil spill so catastrophic that we’re still talking about the environmental impact ten years later. The corporate scandal also involved devastating loss. The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which broke open the will, dumping between 2.5 and 4.2 million barrels of oil into the gulf before it could be capped once more. For thousands of miles, the oil slicks contributed to the deterioration of marine life and had cost the corporation in excess of $65 billion dollars before 2020. In an article published in June of 2010, Peter Fairly of MIT Technology stated, “A culture of tighter safety and more experienced regulators might have prevented the BP Deepwater Horizon leak.” Under the terms of a settlement, BP agreed to pay the Natural Resource Damage Asessment Trustees up to $8.8 billion for restoration work to rebuild the natural environment that was damaged by the spill.
Later in 2010, there was an alarming string of suicides at a plant run by Foxconn, a Chinese corporation that produces roughly 40% of the world’s consumer electronic components—technology that builds our smartphones, gaming consoles, and other forms of smart technology. These tragedies were covered heavily in American media as questions arose to the quality of labor conditions in these Chinese plants. In subsequent investigations, it was revealed that workers could be working 12-hour shifts, with less than a dollar (U.S.) in their pocket for food. While the suicides received a great deal of coverage, and had public relations repercussions for corporations that utilize Foxconn exports, there have been at least 8 additional suicides at the same factor have been reported since 2010.
Few things are more universally loved across the globe than soccer, or football, as it’s known in the rest of the world. In May of 2015, millions of soccer fans were shaken by the FIFA corruption corporate scandal. The Department of Justice indicted the Federation Internationale de Football Association leadership on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money-laundering. The indictment outlined various instances of an excess of $15 million dollars in bribes taken by executives for preserving advertisement marketing rights for decades. The scandal lead to the resignation of President Sepp Blatter in June of 2015 after he managed to escape indictment. Millions of dollars in legal costs and loss of corporate sponsorship severely damaged the reputation of the organization, netting losses of $122.4 million.
Theranos & Elizabeth Holmes
The scandal surrounding the health technology company known as Theranos was a cluster 15 years in the making. Once again a corporate scandal that effected public health, both the executive and the corporation were villified in the media. Stemming from a fear of needles when she was a child, founder Elizabeth Holmes was seeking to develop a technology that would lead to higher accessibility of blood-testing throughout the world. Her device supposedly would be able to perform a smattering of biological tests from a single drop of blood. The Wall Street Journal published an expose in October of 2015, exposing more of the company’s deception and further implicating some of Holmes’ colleagues in the scandal. Holmes was charged with massive fraud in March 2018. Formerly thought of as a young genius, she is scheduled to stand trial in 2020, facing up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Big Pharma & the Opioid Crisis
Corporate scandal is at it’s worst when it comes to public health. The ever-growing opioid crisis in the United States is hands down one of the most pervasive scandals of the last decade. In 2017 alone, there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Of those overdose deaths, 67% came from an overdose of opioids. From the Midwest to the Northeast, opioid deaths spiked between 2016 and 2017. As of November 2019, six pharmaceutical companies were under federal investigation and were facing federal charges for their responsibility for the opioid crisis. Amongst other big pharma companies, Purdue Pharma reached settled for billions of dollars for communities in 23 states that were affected by their shipment of opioids, forcing the company to ultimately filing for bankruptcy. The settlement set major precedent as the first of it’s kind in our American legal system.
Virginia legislation placed on notice following the active shooter event in Virginia Beach.
In what has seemed like a death from a thousand cuts, the mass active shooter event that occurred on Friday, May 28th at a municipal building in Virginia Beach has inspired action on the part of state leadership. According toUSA Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has ordered a legislative session devoted to exploring the current climate of gun violence in the United states. At a news conference, Northam said, “The nation is watching. We must do more than our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.”
It was a public works employee who killed 12 people last week—another senseless tragedy in a long line of mass shootings that have spiked in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, shootings accounted for 79% of all workplace homicides in 2016. Statistics from the Office of Victims of Violent Crime indicate this number has not only risen dramatically but will continue to rise. The number of mass shootings was nearly 2.5 times greater over the last ten years—greater than the mass shootings that occurred between 1998 and 2007.
While the governor of Virginia has put the legislation on notice, businesses throughout the nation have put themselves on notice as well, with interest in active shooter training programs for businesses increasing exponentially with each new report of gun violence in the workplace. What’s chilling is OSHA estimates 25% of workplace violence goes unreported. Yet, many businesses believe events like the ones that transpired in Virginia Beach cannot happen to them.
Many businesses not only believe an active shooter event is unlikely, but that they are, in fact, prepared for one. If you happen to be reading this at your desk, or on a break at your job, do you know the evacuation protocol for your business in the event of an active shooter? Evacuation procedures like these are often explained in personnel materials like handbooks and manuals. But the average employee is not regularly engaged on the topic, let alone received comprehensive education & demonstration of these protocols. It is a morbid, serious subject, and it is not uncommon for management or leadership in a business/organization to be uncomfortable with addressing it, and certainly struggle with addressing it comprehensively.
Companies who have decided that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure are investing in contracts with independent investigators to perform risk assessments on their headquarters and locations of business. These investigators consider factors such as the total volume of personnel, layout of the worksite, and security protocol to determine what is needed to keep the employees safe and secure.
These horrific crimes are also placing a heavy financial burden on businesses. Lower & Associates estimates businesses across the United States will lose more than $55 million in employee wages each year due to violence in the workplace. They experience direct losses in the form of medical expenses, workers’ compensation, litigation fees, and indirect losses such as breakdown in operations due to arrested productivity, record-low morale, and public relation nightmares. Not to mention the fact that a business’s preparedness for an active shooter event is literally a matter of life and death.
(Jasmine Moody vanished in Detroit, Michigan on December 4, 2014.)
Jasmine Moody, a 22-year old Texas Women’s University student mysteriously vanished on December 4, 2014, while visiting a friend in Detroit, Michigan. Nearly four years later, police are no closer to figuring out what happened to her. News coverage of her disappearance has long since vanished from the scene too.
Approximately 7:30 p.m., the evening of December 4th, Jasmine was last seen leaving her friend’s home in the vicinity of the 3700 block of Baldwin, in the Van Dyke and Mack area of Detroit. Her family, who lives in Texas, is convinced foul play is involved in Jasmine’s disappearance and disappointed in the police department’s response and ensuing investigation.
“My daughter was real popular. She had a lot of friends. She was very social and energetic,” Jasmine’s mother Lisa Kidd told Dateline. “She always had a smile on her face. Always, always.”
Jasmine had known she wanted to be a nurse since she was 16 and described as a well-rounded student at Texas Woman’s University. According to her stepfather Patrick Kidd, Jasmine was a straight-A student, danced, and was training to be part of the U.S. Armed Forces through her school’s ROTC program.
According to police, Jasmine had developed an online relationship with Brittany Gurley, a woman who lived in Detroit. Just a few months after meeting online, Jasmine and Brittany had developed a strong friendship and Jasmine flew to visit Brittany and her family for Thanksgiving.
On the evening of December 4th, the two women allegedly got into an argument about Jasmine’s social media posts. Brittany and her family would later tell police that Jasmine put on a hoodie and walked out of the house.
Little else is known about her disappearance. No major ground search was conducted, and ongoing media exposure on a national level has been minimal.
In contrast to Jasmine Moody’s case, Lauren Spierer, a 20-year old student at Indiana University, vanished June 3, 2011, after an evening out with friends in Bloomington, Indiana. Lauren, who grew up in Scarsdale, an affluent town in Westchester, New York. Her disappearance quickly garnered national press attention but remains unsolved.
“Lauren’s disappearance has been and continues to be the most heart-wrenching experience of our lives,” Lauren’s family posted on Facebook on June 4, 2018, seven years after her disappearance. “I remember writing a few short months after Lauren’s disappearance that I never thought I would see an October without answers. I could never have imagined we would still be searching for Lauren seven years later. I end this now as I start each morning, hoping today will be the day.”
After an evening out at Kilroy’s Sports Bar with friends, Lauren was last seen on 11th Street and College Avenue in Bloomington at approximately 4:15 a.m. She had left her cell phone and shoes at the bar, presumedly taking her shoes off in the beach-themed bar’s sand-filled courtyard.
National news quickly began covering Lauren’s disappearance while hundreds of volunteers assembled to distribute thousands of fliers and help conduct ground searches of the area. A billboard overlooking the Indiana State Fairgrounds, along Fall Creek Parkway, asks the public for any information that would lead to the whereabouts of Lauren.
(Thousands of flyers of missing person Lauren Spierer have been distributed throughout the country.)
Hundreds of volunteers continued to turn out daily to help the family in their search.
Lauren’s case was profiled on popular America’s Most Wanted in 2011, leading to dozens of leads but not that one the family needed. Over the years, dozens of news media outlets have covered Lauren’s story.
Early on, Lauren’s parents hired private investigators and today, maintain an active Facebook group.
In one very revealing and heartfelt post, Lauren’s mother writes, “I could not have imagined on June 3, 2011, that my life would ever have any semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, that word will never be applied to our lives. You learn to live with routines which get you through your days, weeks, months, and years. We will never know normal. Some of the things taken for granted in ordinary families are so far removed from ours it’s difficult to fathom. They range from everyday life events, a wedding, a birth and yes sadly death. What I wouldn’t do to hear Lauren’s voice or even just to notice a text on my phone. Something so simple as a text. My heart breaks at the thought of it. Well, those responsible will never be able to imagine. I have said it before and I know it’s redundant but what could have been an accident in a few short hours became a crime. The worst nightmare any parent or sister could imagine.”
Every day Lauren’s family simply hopes for answers. That’s all any family of a missing person could ask for.
Two young women, one black, one white, both ambitious students couldn’t be treated more differently by the media. One becomes nearly a household name, the other nearly forgotten. With absolute certainty, no one can say exactly why.
What are the numbers?
As of May 31, 2018, there were 87,608 active missing person cases in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of the active missing person cases listed in NCIC, 40,108 cases are of missing women and 26,842 are black.
(National Crime Information Center Report)
Names like Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Polly Klaas, Natalee Holloway and Lauren Spierer have become familiar household names. Their missing person cases have dominated the headlines over the years. Cases like Jasmine Moody’s are not rare and unfortunately rarely make the local news.
Historically, whenever a female missing person becomes a national headline, she is almost certain to be a pretty, young white woman.
When was the last time you heard of a missing black female on CNN or other national news outlets?
In an NBC news story “Damsels in Distress” Roy Peter Clark, head of Poynter Institute for Media Studies is quoted, “It’s all about sex,” said Clark. “Young white women give editors and television producers what they want.”
“There are several common threads,” said Clark. “The victims that get the most coverage are female rather than male. They are white, in general, rather than young people of color. They are at least middle class, if not upper middle class.”
Some say the cases fit a narrative pattern that storytellers have used for more than a century, a pattern who design still incorporates remnants of an outmoded view of women and black people and their roles in society.
When it comes to popular stories, Clark said, “there is this perverted, racist view of the world. White is good; black is bad. Blonde is good; dark is bad. Young is good; old is bad. And I think we can find versions of this story going back to the tabloid wars of more than a hundred years ago.”
Regardless of class, color or age, it is clear that there is disproportionate coverage of black missing person cases. Referred to as “Missing White Woman Syndrome” and has led to a number of tough on crime measures named after white women who disappeared such as Suzanne’s Law, Kristen’s Law, Jennifer’s Law, Amber Alert and others.
In a study conducted by Baylor University, “The Invisible Damsel: Differences in How National Media Outlets Framed the Coverage of Missing Black and White Women in the Mid-2000s,” Professors Moody, Dorris and Blackwell concluded that in addition to race and class, factors such as supposed attractiveness, body size, and youthfulness function as unfair criteria in determining newsworthiness in the national news coverage of missing women. In addition, news coverage of missing black women was more likely to focus on the victim’s problems, such as abusive relationships, a troubled past, while coverage of white women tends to focus on roles as mothers or daughters.
Zach Somers, a sociologist at Northwestern University, noted that while there has been extensive research that shows that white people are more likely than people of color to appear in news coverage as victims of violent crime, there is relatively none when it comes to missing person cases.
Victim blaming appears to be compounding the unequal coverage and reinforces the view that black female victims are not only less innocent, but less worthy of rescue relative to white women. Thus, the term “Damsels in Distress.”
Others have blamed “police brutality” for the lack of publicity given to black female missing persons, attributing the silence to a habit of “sexism and patriarchy” in American society.
One group is fighting the imbalance of national media exposure that exists. The Black and Missing Foundation’s mission is to draw more attention to missing African Americans by providing an outlet for spreading the word through technology and print – and their work is making a difference.
By creating relationships with the media, government agencies, and the public, they are increasing the chances of missing black women being covered in the news and ultimately, to bring them home.
Derica and Natalie Wilson, two sisters-in-law, and founders of the Black and Missing Foundation have been profiled in People Magazine, Essence, Ebony, Huffington Post, Washington Post and developed a partnership with TV One. This year they celebrate ten years, helping thousands of families of missing persons and finding nearly 300 people.
“Many times, we are a family’s last resort – their last hope., says co-founder Natalie Wilson. This platform allows us to open our doors for families searching for their missing loved ones and not restrict access to help.”
Black and Missing Foundation have set the example for other groups to follow, especially the media.
Thomas Lauth of Lauth Missing Persons: an Expert in Missing Children and Adults noted, “In the 17 years of conducting missing persons cases for families and non-profit organizations, there is certainly a media and public bias against a missing person of color. When the general public and the media see a blonde 18 year-old on CNN that is missing–as opposed to an African American female on CNN–there is immediate attention to the blonde. Luckily there are non profit organizations such as Black and Missing to help bring more exposure to advocacy to the families for persons of color.”
Finding missing persons is a cooperative effort between the police, media, social service agencies and especially the public. With every news story, the coverage generates leads and increases the chance of that one lead being reported that will assist law enforcement in the investigation, and even close a case.
When it comes to missing persons there is no black and white, there are only families who are missing their daughters, siblings missing their sisters, children who are missing their mothers. There is no rich or poor, only families, human beings experiencing the most traumatic experience of their lifetimes.