Your employer has an obligation to protect you from workplace violence, or the company can suffer some serious consequences, including legal action. Workplace violence includes any act of harassment, assault, intimidation or other violence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), approximately one in every nine fatal workplace injuries is a homicide, which makes assault and violence a major issue with today's companies.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a place of work that is free from recognizable hazards that can cause serious death and harm. If you work in a place that has a risk of workplace violence, your employer should implement a zero-tolerance violence-prevention program that stresses the consequences of any type of threatening behavior. According to OSHA, if your employer fails to reduce the risks of violence in the workplace, the result is an OSHA violation, which can result in heavy fines.
Common Law Negligence Theory
Common-law negligence claims cover assaults at work that result in injury or loss. According to The Bureau of National Affairs in Washington D.C., you can hold your employer liable for the assault if the company was aware of the impending or foreseeable risk of violence and did nothing to protect you. The court system may perceive what is foreseeable as debatable. If the employer knew someone had a history of violence and they hired the individual anyway, this could be seen as a foreseeable risk. It's important to remember, though, that workplace violence can come from a vendor or customer.
Worker's Compensation Law
When an assault occurs regarding an issue connected to the employer and the employer tries to cover it up, you may not be able to sue under the common-law negligence theory. In this instance, you may be limited to benefits under workers compensation law. Any recovery you receive under worker's compensation would be limited by statutory provisions. The compensation would not cover any pain and suffering that resulted in the assault. If the assault is clearly a private dispute, including arguments over infidelity or other outside incidents, that has carried over into the workplace, you may be able to sue your employer for damages.
Workplace Violence Policies
If you are a victim of assault at work and it does not involve your employer -- regardless of whether the company tries to cover the assault up -- you can hire a personal-injury attorney to file assault and battery charges against the person who assaulted you. Assault and battery can result in jail time or hefty fines if the person is found guilty of the assault.
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