The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which manages the collection and allocation of taxes, has announced that it will be evaluating its security measures for the first time since the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. The re-evaluation of security policies is a response to a growing wave of threats against IRS employees from right-wing extremists.
The government agency has told employees of its plans to assess the security risks in each of its 600 buildings, and then determine what protective measures to put in place. In recent weeks, there have been repeated violent incidents at US government buildings including an armed Trump supporter who was shot dead after attacking an FBI office.
The violence and threats against workers come amid misinformation and backlash from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) raid of former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.
An internal intelligence memo detailed the threats law enforcement is facing on the back of the raid: “The FBI and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] have observed an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters and issuing general calls for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed rebellion’.”
IRS commissioner Charles Rettig explained to the Washington Post: “We see what’s out there in terms of social media. Our workforce is concerned about their safety.”
Retting added: “The comments being made are extremely disrespectful to the agency, to the employees, and to the country.”
Many companies receive messages from disgruntled customers or those who oppose certain business practices. But violence and threats are a serious concern because they impact not just employees’ physical safety, but also their wellbeing and ability to do their jobs properly.
The IRS is trying to alleviate the impact on employees by communicating what it intends to do when assessing threats going forward.
While the IRS’ measures may physically protect employees, their wellbeing needs to be considered as well.
Whether it’s offering flexible work, opportunities to sit down with therapists, or assurances that the office space is safe; employees will need continued support.
On top of that, if many of the threats come from social media, then the agency will need to provide training on how employees can remain safe online and how to escalate threats through the proper channels.
This appears to be the approach IRS and Retting are taking. The commissioner implored staff: “If you see something, say something.”
Retting added: “For me this is personal, I’ll continue to make every effort to dispel any lingering misperceptions about our work.
“And I will continue to advocate for your safety in every venue where I have an audience.”
The world’s HR conference and expo is back! Don’t miss out on UNLEASH World in Paris this October.