Feeling Unsafe at Work

trk

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Joined Mar 14, 2009
One of our cooks had a complete psychotic break this weekend, in full view of customers and with staff standing by with their thumbs up their as*#s.  Never, in 30 years, have I seen a melt down like this.  Full blown, blood curdling (think horror movie) screams continuously for 5 consecutive minutes;  fists and feet pounding brick walls;  falling to the floor STILL SCREAMING and now crying, kicking and flailing like Rainman.  The bulk of the freak out took place in my area, the bakery, with only me as a witness.  I'm not afraid to admit that I was scared.  The guy was out of control - out of his mind.  I worked for a schizophrenic for five years and never saw anything like that.  Our customers all had their cell phones poised to dial 911.  It was that bad.

Chef decides not to fire the kook.  Says we need to be "compassionate" since we've all felt that way before.  Ah, no.  I've never been stressed enough to assume the fetal position and scream for five minutes WHILE AT WORK.  In any event, she never talked to me, asked me about what I saw or how I felt.  But I will say that I feel very nervous, stressed, and fearful about working with this freak.  There are many, many days when I work alone with the cook in the wee hours of the morning.  He is twice my size and obviously unhinged.  There's enough freaking stress in the kitchen - I don't need to add potential bodily harm to the list.

I've asked the chef to speak with me but she is in avoidance mode right now.  A stupid one line email is all I've received since the incident. 

What would you do?
 
5,288
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Personally witnessed two epilectic (sp?) siezures, the big ones, think they're called "Grand Mal" siezures. Scared the living crap out of me, and with one guy, called 911.  The other one was at a large Union place, and afterwards  I had a "conversation" with the HR dept, matter- of-factly telling them I had no issues working with the epilectic (really a nice guy), but that I should have been warned, and given information on how to handle the situation--the guy was working the fryer station and was cutting sandwiches to order at the the time.  HR took no action on my complaint.

So I feel for you.  On the one hand, you could take your thoughts to your local Labour Board branch, and tell them that you obviously feel threatened at your work place, that you have no information to the employee's psycholigical state, if he is on medication, or any information/instructions from management about what to do if it ever happens again..

Playing the Devil's advocate, I could also say that the employee did not advance on anyone, bodily threaten anyone, verbally threaten anyone, or display any suicidal actions.

Then again, a space case like the above most certainly can not improve business or employee morale.

You could aproach the Chef or even HR and ask them what you should do in the event that this employee does this again.
 
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Joined Jul 19, 2010
Well.... if you think about this situation, it's an absolute liability for the owner/chef/blah blah blah.

You can't roll over and take a stand on things like that anymore.  The grey area is huge!
 

At the same time, personal information like that can't be released to the public..... so everybody is kind of at risk (mostly being co-workers), but you have to question the effect on the establishment as a whole.

Anybody smart would handle the situation using the 'can be terminated at any point, or chose the right to quit' angle.  Time to lay somebody off due to lack of business or whatever.  Even if it's not true. 

Unemployment is worth the risk.

Either way you look at it.... that IS kinda' scary!  I think I would look for another position if the owner or chef doesn't take action.

Crazy story though.  I've never experienced anything like that - being a chef for 15 years.
 
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
Ask the chef or owner "" What would you do if this guy really hurts somebody''? Or put it on e-mail to them.
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
I'm not sure what the labour laws are in your area but employees do have a right to refuse unsafe work so you might want to look into the labour codes and see what you can do about it from that standpoint.  Has he signed an employee code of conduct, workplace harassment policy and workplace violence policy?  We have a new HR person and she has gone through all of our files and anyone who was missing any of those documents now have them in their file.  It's a great tool when something like this happens. 

That had to be incredibly scary for you and your customers as well...  I take it this took place in an open kitchen?
 
523
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Joined Mar 9, 2010
If I ever got to the point you are stating  "Nervous,Stressed  Fearfull of bodily harm with a Chef avoiding that....well asta la vista baby.....

my advice to you GTFO
 

trk

45
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Joined Mar 14, 2009
Thanks for all the feedback.  I do feel vindicated.

I emailed chef who contacted owner.  They FINALLY "investigated" the incident fully by interviewing me and everyone else that was present.  Happy to report the nut job is no longer an employee.

It has restored my faith in humankind. 

I really didn't want to leave - I love my job.
 
1,632
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
I'm glad you took it further and that they did something about it... I bet you weren't the only one in the kitchen who was afraid of this guy.
 
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
trk.   You did what I stated you should do. You by notifying both chef and he in turn owners put them both on notice(In particular Email because it can be used as a form of evidence that can be produced in the event the guy really  went crazy and  hurt someone. They could not say they did not know about him..Good Job.
 
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Joined Jul 19, 2010
I agree with Ed... and good for you! 

If you love your job, it's worth it.  8^)

By the way, I'm obviously in Seattle too. 

Born n' raised!  The food up here is incredible. Beers anyone?
 
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Joined Oct 13, 2001
So glad your safe now! The company should have suspended employee pending investigation to maintain as safe a work environment as possible.Glad you followed Eds advice as the outcome was the only safe & sane thing to do..............................
 
 

trk

45
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Joined Mar 14, 2009
The towering Space Noodle in your signature was a tip off! 

I am going on 22 years now in Seattle - transplant from Jersey. 

Alas, my love affair with booze ended seven years ago but I drink coffee like I used to drink Vodka! 

Thanks to all again.  (goober-alert!) It's back to worrying only about my batter and not about possibly being battered!
 
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