By Maya Srikrishnan.
SEIU 221, the union that represents county social service employees, filed a workplace safety complaint against San Diego County after employees at the North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido received multiple threats of gun violence.
The union members allege that the county didn’t follow the safety and security protocol it adopted after the San Bernardino shooting.
“Our facilities are at risk now more than ever,” said Linda Correa, an SEIU 221 member, who does client intake at the North Inland Live Well Center. “The employees are very impacted by what they hear and management and the county doesn’t seem to make it a priority. We serve so many people, so many families, so many children and disabled – it’s a huge concern.”
The North Inland Live Well Center, which opened in September 2015, is a family resource center for people who need health insurance or food assistance, and child welfare services. It also has resources for veterans and meeting spaces for community groups.
The union gathered at least five instances since May in which clients or members of public behaved erratically and threatened to shoot employees and other people in the center.
“Management did not follow protocol in any of these incidents, only one incident was reported to the police,” said SEIU 221 spokesman Adam Ward in an e-mail.
The county disputes the assertion that it hasn’t handled the situations well.
“The safety of our employees and the residents we serve in our facilities is the top priority for the Health and Human Services Agency,” said county spokesman Craig Sturak. “We take threats to our staff very seriously, and have procedures in place to respond immediately when they happen.”
The county said it is aware of fewer incidents that what the union members report and that since last October, there have been three incidents in which threats of gun violence occurred in County Health and Human Services facilities, two of which were at the Escondido center.
In both of those instances, Sturak said the county followed procedure. The Escondido Police Department responded to the situation where someone threatened gun violence in the facility after being called by security. Management met with staff and supervisors to debrief and ordered an additional temporary security guard immediately following the incidents. Then the County said its Human Resources Department conducted a follow-up review.
Sturak said that nearly 300 employees at the center attended a training about active-shooter situations held by the Sheriff’s Department in 2017, and roughly 100 employees from the North Inland facility also attended workplace violence prevention training in August, which also covered active-shooter situations. He also said that the facility has a security manager, security coordinator and on-site security guards “to help ensure the safety of staff and the public we serve.”
“I work in intake, so I do face-to-face interviews,” said Correa. “So anyone could come in. It’s always in the back of my head. We want to know that the safety of their employees is at least one of their top priorities.”