Could You Be Sued for Failing to Prevent Workplace Violence?

Could You Be Sued for Failing to Prevent Workplace Violence?

At times you may get the feeling that something isn’t right at work. What once seemed like a playful nudge is now a routine shove. When should you speak up and is it even worth it? Workplace violence happens more often than employers or their employees would like to think.

Every year, almost two million American workers report being the victim of workplace violence. The actual occurrence of workplace violence is believed to be even higher, as many incidents go unreported.

In 2010, an employee shot two women at a Kraft Foods plant in Philadelphia. NBC reports that a lawsuit accused the security guards of failing to respond appropriately, and a jury awarded more than $46 million to the women’s families.

In 2014, 403 of the 4,679 workplace fatalities were homicides.

In some cases, employers may be sued for failing to prevent workplace violence.

The Orange Leader reports that a jury awarded a million-dollar settlement in a lawsuit involving a workplace homicide in 2015. The lawsuit claimed that the employers, Woven Metal Products, Inc., was negligent, specifically for failing to perform background checks, listening to complaints or providing training to handle workplace violence. 

Although cases like these are extreme, they are also disturbingly common. Workplace violence incidents that do not reach the level of homicide can also have numerous negative repercussions for both the employees and the employer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Workplace violence can be against employees, customers or other people at the work site, and it includes everything from verbal abuse to homicide. 

According to the Department of Labor, the cost of workplace violence is staggering. Possible effects include psychological damage; property damage, theft and sabotage; productivity impediments; diversion of management resources; increased security, workers’ compensation and personnel costs; and the absence of skilled employees.

Companies need to take a proactive stance against workplace violence. Doing so will not only contribute to a safer work environment where employees feel comfortable and can focus on work, but will also protect the company against liability.  

Employers should take several steps to curtail any incidents of workplace violence:

  • Before hiring employees, screen for previous incidents of workplace violence.
  • Create a written zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence, inform all employees of the workplace violence policy and ensure the policy is followed.
  • Establish a system that allows employees to report incidents.
  • Respond appropriately and promptly to any reports of threats, harassment or violence. Don’t wait for the situation to escalate.
  • Provide appropriate security measures.

Travisoft has new software that allows employees to anonymously report suspicious activity, harassment and other forms of workplace violence. When speaking up about ethical violations, many fear the situation may get even worse, damage their career, or they simply aren’t sure how to bring up their concerns. Protecting your company and your employees is critical to your success. Providing a system that allows anonymous reporting on all ethical issues at work, gives your employees the protection and freedom they deserve. Learn more about how T-Ethics can help your workplace and improve culture.

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