Are employers liable for workplace violence?
Workplace violence has become a serious problem for US businesses. Statistics show that one million individuals are subjected to workplace violence every year, and that homicide is the number one cause of death on the job. Even though this kind of violence is not usually one between Employer’s offic
When are employers liable for workplace violence?Because employers are required by law to provide safe workplace and safe employees, employers could be held liable for negligent hiring and negligent retention.
In negligent hiring actions, the plaintiff argues that "but for the employer's lack of exercising his duty of care before hiring the person who initiated the intentional injury, the victim would not have been harmed*.
In negligent retention actions , the employe is responsible for its failure to take appropriate action when becoming aware of the employee's unfitness. For example, if employers should have reassigned, provided training and terminated the employees whom they know have violent tendency, the employers will be held liable for the damages of the victims.
Prevention of Potential Workplace Violence and Violence ClaimsThere are a number of specific practices that the employer can and should initiate to reduce the potential for workplace violence and adverse litigation.
First, develop and publish a company policy outlawing the carrying and possession of weapons on company property. All employees should be notified by letter about the policy including sanctions for violating it. This should be a zero tolerance policy.
Secondly, since 43% of all job applications are in some way falsified, it is imperative to have effective pre-employment screening process in place, In many of the cases plaintiffs recovered because the employer's pre-employment inquiry was lacking, haphazard, or nonexistent.
Third, employers need to exercise caution and concern in situations resulting in anxiety, anger, and a host of other emotions. If the person is prone to violence, these emotions could trigger violence. Outplacement counseling and a genuine compassionate concern for the employee can go a long way toward reducing anger and emphasizing hope for the future and a positive attitude in the employee
ConclusionIn summary, employers must assess their liability for work-related violent incidents, and must take action to create a safer work environment. Failure to do so exposes them to lawsuits based on claims of negligent hiring and negligent retention. To avoid these problems, companies should implement a stringent pre-employment selection program, a zero tolerance policy that bans possession of weapons on company premises, and a workplace training program that addresses prevention techniques.