Physical assaults in the workplace are a very real concern for employers. While most businesses take steps to prevent these types of incidents, they can still occur. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there were 564 workplace homicides in the United States in 2017. This is a rate of 0.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
The employer could be held liable if an employee is physically assaulted at work. This is because employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment for their employees. When an employer fails to do this and an employee is injured; as a result, the employer can be held liable under workers’ compensation laws.
What is assault?
Before anything else, it’s essential to understand what counts as an assault. Generally speaking, an assault is any physical contact made without the other person’s consent. This can include hitting, punching, kicking, or even touching someone in an unwanted or unwelcome way.
In the workplace, assaults can happen between co-workers, an employee and a customer, or even between employees and supervisors. What are the consequences? Workplace assaults can have severe implications for both the victim and the employer. The victim may suffer from physical injuries, emotional trauma, or both. In some cases, the victim may be unable to return to work.
While the employees involved in the assault may suffer the most immediate consequences, the employer could also be held liable. This is because employers must be able to provide a safe work environment for their employees. However, this is still a case-to-case basis. An employer could be held liable if:
- There is a history of assaults in the workplace, and the employer did not take steps to prevent them
- The assault happened because of a failure on the employer’s part to provide a safe work environment
- The victim was specifically targeted because of their job (for example, if they were assaulted by a disgruntled customer)
If an employer is liable for a workplace assault, they may have to pay damages to the victim. These damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Sometimes, the employer may also be required to pay punitive damages.
What you need to do
When it gets to the point where you are sued for a workplace assault, it may be too late to do anything. At this point, the best you can do is find a good defense lawyer. You need a lawyer who has experience with these types of cases and knows how to defend against them. Your lawyer must understand the law and learn how to use it to your advantage.
It would help if you also had a team that would be able to empathize with you. For example, Sloan Law has a legal team aware of how stressful and overwhelming looming legal issues can be. This team prioritizes giving full attention to clients and treating them with care and respect. Facing a legal issue can be frightening, but you don’t have to do it alone. Having a good lawyer on your side will make all the difference.
Preventing workplace assaults
The best way to avoid being sued for workplace assault is to take steps to prevent assaults from happening in the first place. You should have a policy in place that prohibits workplace violence. Here are some tips to avoid workplace assaults:
A brief screening during the hiring process can help you avoid hiring someone likely to commit a workplace assault. You can screen applicants by doing background checks and reference checks. You should also have a policy that prohibits applicants with a history of violence from being hired.
Train employees on how to handle conflict
Your employees should know how to handle conflict without resorting to violence. They should also know how to report instances of workplace violence.
Provide a safe work environment
Your workplace should be free from potential hazards that could lead to an assault. For example, security cameras and security guards should be in place if your employees are handling cash or other valuables.
Employees should feel comfortable reporting instances of workplace violence. You should have a policy in place that protects employees from retaliation if they do a report. If you take these steps to prevent workplace assaults, you can avoid being held liable if an assault does occur.
The bottom line
Your reputation and your bottom line are at stake when it comes to workplace assaults. You could be sued for damages if you’re found to be liable for an assault. To avoid being held liable, you need to take steps to prevent assaults from happening in the first place. Be proactive in your approach to workplace safety, and you can avoid the legal troubles that come with workplace violence.