Workplace Violence

Violence in the Workplace: When is the Employer Liable?
An article entitled “Maintaining a safe workplace is employee’s responsibility”, in the Daily Reporter, August 25, 2003, tells the story of the killing of 2 North Carolina plant workers.   Employees Frank Knox and Gerald Allman were killed by James Floyd Davis, a disgruntled worker who was fired 2 days earlier because of a string of violent attacks against other workers.   The key issue at the civil trial was the company’s negligence in failing to properly protect their employees.   The jury therefore awarded the family $7.9 million in damages (LexisNexis).
      Workplace violence has become a very serious safety and health issue in today’s business environment.   Although a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has declared the federal Violence against Women Act unconstitutional, employers still face a significant risk of liability for unpredictable acts of workplace violence.   According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), during the period of 1980-1989 nearly 7,000 employees were victims of homicide in the workplace.   Among females it was the number one cause of death (Preventing Violence in the Workplace).
      The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), describes workplace violence as threats and verbal abuse to physical assault and homicide.   However the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has broaden the definition of workplace violence to include homicides, physical attacks, rapes, aggravated assaults, threats, intimidation, coercions, all forms of harassment and any other act that creates a hostel work environment.
      In the United States nearly 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence every year (Workplace violence OSHA Fact Sheet).   No one is immune.   It can strike anywhere.   Those workers that are at an increased risk are those who exchange money, deliver passengers, or provide goods or services.   They also include those who work...