AMD pursues laid-off worker

By Colin Pope Austin Business Journal Staff

(Austin, TX) - Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has obtained a restraining order against a former Austin

employee who allegedly threatened to shoot his coworkers if he became part of recently announced


Victor Nuss was one of about 300 Central Texans laid off by AMD [NYSE: AMD] earlier this month,

but he was escorted off the company's Southeast Austin campus by AMD security without incident

Nov. 14 when the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip company initiated the job cuts, according to court


AMD executives learned of Nuss' alleged threats two days before the layoff announcement,

according to records in Travis County District Court. AMD's application for a temporary restraining

order and permanent injunction against Nuss was filed Nov. 13.

An affidavit submitted with the application on behalf of Jim Cartier, AMD's Texas security manager,

says Nuss voiced the threats to co-workers, who reported the alleged threats to campus security.

"Based both on the interviews I conducted with Mr. Nuss' manager and coworkers, and the written

statements I obtained, I believe that Mr. Nuss is capable of violence and that his threats should be

taken seriously," Cartier's affidavit states.

It goes on to say that Nuss later told Cartier that he was joking. Nuss couldn't be reached for


After AMD's recent layoff, which affected a total of 2,000 employees but only 300 locally, the

company employs about 3,000 people in Austin. Representatives of AMD couldn't be reached for


Scott Agthe, a labor and employment attorney at Austin law firm Brown McCarroll LLP, says

companies can't afford to not take these types of threats seriously.

"Even if it seems unlikely that the person will follow through, precautions must be taken," Agthe

says. "Otherwise, the company runs the risk of being negligent if they take no measure and the

person follows through."

That sort of negligence, or perceived negligence, is fodder for lawsuits, experts say.

An incident similar to AMD's made headlines last year. In February 2001, Santa Clara, Calif.-based

Applied Materials Inc. obtained a restraining order against an Austin employee who allegedly

complained to fellow employees about a potential job reassignment.

The Applied Materials employee allegedly threatened to "bring an Uzi [to work] and start mowing

people down." That man was quickly removed from Applied Material's campus under its

zero-tolerance policy.

Workplace violence has emerged as an important safety and health issue for all types of

companies. Its most extreme form, homicide, is the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injury

in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of the 3,829 workplace homicides between 1996 and 2000, the industries with the highest numbers

of homicides are: retail, service and government.

About 15 percent of all work-related homicides are initiated by disgruntled workers or former

employees; the rest are the result of robberies or other crimes, according to the Occupational

Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

OSHA has developed guidelines and recommendations to reduce worker exposures to the growing

hazard but does not require employers to implement procedures. Although there aren't any

regulated standards for employers, legal standards often force companies to ensure their workers

are in a safe "zero tolerance" environment.

Experts at the Workplace Violence Research Institute in Palm Springs, Calif., say businesses often

are held accountable for the actions of their employees, or even former employees.

Although violence by a disgruntled employee might be viewed as random and unpreventable, the

employer's failure to foresee the potential act or stop it might be called into play in a lawsuit,

according to the institute.

[Travis County District Court, Cause No. GN-204101.]

(From the 11/29/02 Print Edition of the Austin Business Journal)