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Help! Our employee is threatening to shoot us!

by , 11 May 2015
5% of South Africans have Bipolar Disorder. That means, for every 100 employees you have, 5 of them have it. They probably have it under control and take meds to treat it.

But what would you do if you were in the same situation as this reader below...

I believe that if she had a gun, she would've opened fire!
We have a staff member who has Bipolar Disorder. She's on chronic medication for her condition. She's been to hospital on a few occasions because of this. Last week she had an episode in our office. She verbally and physically abused her immediate manager as well as other managers in the workplace. And this isn't the first time either! 
She said that if she had a gun she was going to shoot and kill her manager. She was screaming and shouting uncontrollably. When she was calm, we were able to sedate her and get her relevant medical help. She doesn't remember any of this. 
Unfortunately for me I was witness to this episode and I do believe that if she had a weapon of any kind she would have used it. Luckily, her manager didn't respond in any way to her abuse. The employee's been hospitalised.
Her manager can't work with her anymore and our company is too small to move her to another department. What if she has another outburst and this time there is a weapon nearby? We want to dismiss her on the grounds of physical and verbal abuse to her manager. 
What is our legal right in this situation?

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The simple truth: You can't simply dismiss a sick employee
There's no simple, quick solution I'm afraid. You must handle an employee that suffers from this type of illness through the incapacity procedure due to ill health.
You have to go through a counselling process. You also need to go through a formal enquiry about this and the negative effect it has on you, her manager and her colleagues.
Terminating her employment through a disciplinary procedure will be dangerous, especially since you know about her Bipolar diagnosis.
You need to think about her ability to do her work, the fact that her ill health is permanent, if you can adapt her work to fit her need and the availability of alternative employment - which you've already said you can't do.
Only after you have done a complete investigation, and seen that termination is the only option, can you give her notice and terminate the employment agreement.
This is a long process, so don't think it will be a quick and easy solution. 

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