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Employment Law -- Employee

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Workplace Violence

No person should have to fear or suffer violence at their job, but sadly this is a reality for some people. Workplace violence appears in a multitude of ways like verbal threats or intimidation, physical assault, and murder in extreme cases.

The perpetrator of this violence may be an internal member of the company like an employee, contractor, or supervisor. Workplace violence may be carried out by someone outside of the company entering the workplace like a robber, disgruntled customer or patient, as well as someone you know or family member committing domestic violence.

Whether you are suffering, witnessing, or trying to prevent violence in your workplace, it is important to understand your rights and how to find an attorney to help protect yourself or other employees.

Employer’s Obligation to Protect Employees

Employers have an obligation to keep employees safe and protect them from violence in their place of employment. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to provide employees with a work environment without recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm or death. OSHA recommends employers have a written workplace violence plan, prescribing how to report incidents of violence and the procedure of how reports are handled.

Handling Workplace Violence with Your Employer

You may wish to deal with the violence you are suffering at your place of employment. You can report the violence to your supervisor or a member of the human resources department so they can write an incident report. If you are in a labor union, you may want to inform your union representative as well. If you are nervous or unsure about speaking up, you may opt for confiding in another employee for their support or calling your company’s incident hotline if they have one.

Once a report is filled, your company will follow company procedure to investigate the incident and remedy the issue. In cases with threats or harassment, this often results in a formal warning, probationary period, or further training for the person who harmed you. They may also be restricted from working in the same area or time as you. In more serious cases with assault or death, the other employee may be terminated from the company.

If you are unsatisfied with this process or if your employer fails to take your report seriously, you may wish to go outside of your company and proceed with legal remedies.

Legal Remedies for Workplace Violence

If you are a victim of workplace violence, there are a number of legal remedies outside of your company that you may pursue.

Reporting Criminal Charges

Violence that occurs in the workplace can still be a crime. The injuries you suffer are real and the criminal system provides you the opportunity for justice. You may contact law enforcement and file a police report about the violence you suffer at work. The police may ask you for a statement, your contact information, your place of employment, as well as the identity of the person who hurt you. If you do move forward with pressing formal charges, your interests will be represented by a prosecutor to prove the guilt of the other party.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

The injuries you suffer as a result of workplace violence may cause you to suffer damages like pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and more. Depending on your situation, you may be able to bring a civil personal injury lawsuit to receive compensation from the person who hurt you. Your attorney can assess your situation, counsel you on your rights, and advocate for you in court to seek damages for the violence you endured.

Liability of Employers for Workplace Violence

An employer who fails to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards may result in a citation from the government, consequences from professional licensing associations, or even legal liability. If your employer fails to comply, you may wish to notify OSHA so they can investigate and potentially impose fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 per violation.

There may be instances of workplace violence that you may hold your employer accountable for the damages you suffered. If your employer knowingly or through negligence is at fault for the violence you suffer while at work, you may be able to file a civil personal injury lawsuit. The type of claim you have and the potential damages will depend on your injuries and how the workplace violence occurred.

Witnessing Workplace Violence

If you witness violence in your place of employment, there are a few ways you can proceed. Being a witness to this type of violence typically does not create an obligation to physically stop the violence, but you may do so if you feel capable. Depending on your relationship with the person suffering the violence and the person carrying out the violence, you may have an obligation to report it to a supervisor or other necessary authorities.

The acts you witness may not only be classified as workplace violence, but they may be criminal acts. If you see a situation escalating or witness violent criminal acts, contacting your local law enforcement department is also an option. This could result in criminal charges for the person inflicting the violence in addition to any internal workplace consequences as well.

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