Assault in the Workplace – Understanding the Business Owner’s Liability

Workplace conflicts are an integral aspect of running a business. While seniors may give verbal threats to junior employees, the risk of physical violence and assault is always there at all levels of hierarchy. These can be serious concerns because they have legal repercussions for the business, even if an employee is responsible. It is, therefore, important to prevent such situations in the first place and also have a strategy to deal with lawsuits if they come up. At the same time, you also need to understand your liability as a business owner if an incident of assault or any other form of physical violence at your workplace.

 

Risks and threats workplace assault

Assault refers to intentionally inflicting or even threatening to inflict injury on another person, which makes it a criminal act. A workplace is susceptible to such incidents as many people work together in confined space every day. Apart from stress factors, personality conflicts, cultural differences, and power dynamics increase the risk of physical violence.  Serious as the concerns may be, workplace violence rarely happens out of the blue. As a business owner, you need to pay attention to subtle signs of brewing conflicts and growing tensions and resolve them before outbursts.

 

Employer liability for workplace assaults

While preventing violent incidents at the workplace should be your top priority, you also need to be aware of your liability as an employer. If one employee assaults another while acting in the scope of the job, the victim can hire an attorney for an assault charge and file a claim through the state workers’ compensation law. The liability may fall on the employer in case of their negligence or intentional conduct leading to the assault and injury. When it comes to negligence, it happens when the employer was aware of the possibility of violence but failed to take the requisite steps to prevent it. Apart from being liable for physical violence, the liability of sexual misconduct also comes on the employer.

 

Employee liability for committing assault

In some cases, the liability may exclusively fall on the employee who threatens and assaults a co-worker in the workplace. For example, if the employer had no clue about an upcoming incident of violence, they cannot be held responsible for negligence. Similarly, the employee will be responsible if the action was not job-related. In these cases, the guilty employee will be charged with a crime and may also sue for damages in a civil action, while the business owner will have nothing to do with the lawsuit.

 

Essential violence prevention measures

Considering the risks of violence in the workplace, an employer must implement the essential preventive measures to curb such incidents before they happen. Employee training and team-building exercises can go a long way. Having people in the roles of mediators and facilitators can make all the difference. Additionally, some other types of interventions for identifying employees who exhibit threatening behavior and having specialized programs to correct them.

Understanding your responsibility for avoiding conflict and violence is important because they are dangerous for your business. Not only do they trigger lawsuits but cause loss of productivity and reputation.

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