Workplace violence affects all who work for an organization, not just the involved parties. Employers and employees should familiarize themselves with the laws related to workplace violence. Being in the know about workplace violence before an unfortunate occurrence may stop certain situations before they start, help you handle your own issues in the correct manner or properly report an incident of workplace violence.
Employer's Responsibilities -- General Duty Clause
The General Duty Clause in section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) states that an employer is responsible for providing employees with a safe workplace environment. This means that if an employer knows that a particular employee is being harassed by another employee, it is that employer's duty to rectify the situation. Employers can create a workplace violence prevention program for employees to turn to in other instances of harassment or impending workplace violence.
Duty to Protect
This is the rare instance where the confidentiality between a patient and professional must be broken to avoid violence in the workplace. Mental health professionals have a duty to protect, that is to warn those who may be affected should a patient mention growing feelings of violence, homicide or causing harm to someone in the workplace.
Victim Assistance Laws
While at work, 74 percent of employed women who suffer domestic violence reported harassment from their violent partner. This affects job performance; but domestic violence is such a private matter, employers may never know. This is why the General Duty Clause may not apply here, unless the employee has told her employer that she needs security while at work to protect her from an abusive partner. In this case, Victim Assistance Laws are what will protect battered women, and men, from termination if they have to take time off to secure a safe situation away from an abusive partner. Contacting the local department of human resources in your state or city can help you if you are a victim or provide valuable resources to your employees if you are an employer.
Since there are no federal laws that fully address workplace violence, although the General Duty Clause is beneficial, it is best to look into state laws. This will help for specified incidents of workplace violence that may have already taken place or for individuals who are currently being harassed or are suspicious of possible violence in the workplace. It is also a place where employers can receive invaluable resources for how to protect and guide their employees should violence ensue. Contact your local state legislative office for the most current information.
Christina Caldwell is a contributor for online publications such as Women's eNews and Little Pink Book. Her work has also been featured in the popular U.K. magazine "Black Heritage Today." Caldwell holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications.