British Columbia

Starbucks' hero motivates violence prevention toolkit

The murder in 2000 of a Vancouver store manager by an employee's estranged spouse has led to the development of a program to help address domestic violence that spreads to the workplace.

Slain manager's partner works with WorkSafeBC to develop free online kit

The WorkSafeBC domestic violence in the workplace toolkit includes animations depicting employer and employee responsibilities. (WorkSafeBC)

The murder of a Vancouver Starbucks manager who died defending an employee during an attack has helped motivate the launch of a new WorkSafeBC program to help people address domestic violence in the workplace.

Tony McNaughton intervened in January 2000 when a man armed with a butcher knife entered the Robson Street business to confront his estranged wife, who worked there.

McNaughton was stabbed to death and the attacker was later convicted of second-degree murder.

"It's been a hard 12 years because you move in and out of grief," Allen Sawkins, McNaughton's partner, said Thursday.

To cope with the loss, Sawkins began advocating for victims of domestic violence and with WorkSafeBC, has helped develop a toolkit for addressing domestic violence in the workplace.

All of the resources are available online for free, including a handbook, fact sheets and videos.

"[It’s] a resource that would help employers start and then continue what is a very difficult and sensitive conversation," said Roberta Ellis, of WorkSafeBC.

Employers' responsibility

Vancouver police say domestic violence can spill into the workplace more often than one might think.

Sometimes signs of domestic abuse may not be obvious, but there are signs to watch for, said Det. Const. Michele McKnight.

Tony McNaughton was killed in 2000 by a man who was attacking his wife in her workplace. (CBC)

"Repeated phone calls wanting to know where the victim is at all times of the day, even though they're at work doing their job," said McKnight. "Trying to find out, are you talking to other people, what are you doing on your lunch break."

During the trial for McNaughton murder, it was revealed that the woman’s husband had called his wife numerous times at work.

"What I hope is that people will see that it's okay to open up the communication," said Sawkins.

Employers also have legal obligations when it comes to domestic violence, according to WorkSafe BC.

They have to ensure that anyone who needs to know about a potentially dangerous individual is made aware, and if a threat of violence is imminent, employers must take steps to eliminate or minimize the risk.

With files from the CBC's Aarti Pole