An article written by Employment Law attorney Caitlin A. Donahue, Esq. discusses the need for employers to develop a Workplace Violence Prevention policy to protect its workers.
A podcast discussing workplace violence and developing a Workplace Violence Prevention policy features Employment Law attorneys Caitlin Donahue and Jody Shelby.
On August 6, 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released survey results from 2019 related to homicide and other workplace assaults/violence by gender. In 2019, there were 454 workplace homicides, which accounted for nine (9) percent of all fatal work injuries that year. While men comprised the majority of workplace homicides, homicides accounted for nearly three (3) times the share of all workplace deaths for women than for men. Around twenty (20) percent of all workplace deaths of women were attributed to homicide, compared to seven and a half percent (7.5%) of all workplace deaths of men in 2019.1
There were 41,560 non-fatal assaults and intentional injuries at workplaces in 2019 that involved at least one (1) day away from work. In 2019, the workers experiencing a non-fatal assault or intentional injury were injured by a patient, a student, or by a client or customer.2
Employers have a duty to protect employees from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines on combating workplace violence, including training on the importance of management commitment, employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and employee education and training.
This program should be utilized by employers engaged in high risk business activities. Examples of high risk activities include:
- Exchanging Money with the Public;
- Working Alone or in Small Numbers;
- Working Late at Night or Early in the Morning;
- Working in High-Crime Areas;
- Guarding Valuable Property or Possessions; and/or
- Working in Community Settings.
Since employers have less ability to predict or prevent violent acts when the violence is committed by a non-employee, violence prevention programs are imperative. However, prevention programs and educational training provided by OSHA are not one-size-fits-all. Therefore, employers will have to craft their own unique preventative measures using OSHA as a guideline. Strategic measures may include:
- Exterior Lighting and Security Systems;
- Limited Entrances and Exits;
- Security Guards/Cameras;
- Reception Area – Separating Other Office Space/Employees; and/or
- Bullet-Resistant Barriers or Enclosure.
Policy and Workplace Culture
Employers must be proactive in reducing the risk of workplace violence by adopting a comprehensive policy and procedure. An effective Workplace Violence Prevention Policy should include:
- Written Policy: This policy should be written and remain available to employees at all times
- Zero-Tolerance Language: Actual or threatened violence
- Specific Examples of Prohibited Violent Behavior: Threatening comments, gestures, stalking, outbursts, or bringing a weapon to the workplace
- Reporting Procedures: Chain of command – supervisors, human resources, and upper management
- Investigation Practice and Procedure: Immediate engagement; witness statements; keep findings confidential
- Disciplinary Actions: Suspension; termination; criminal charges
- Crisis Plan if Violent Acts Occur: Separate assailant from victim; protect other employees
In addition to implementing a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Policy, employers must make sure that supervisors and/or management personnel are properly trained to identify and respond to employees who may be or become violent or those who are victims of such violence. Employers should cultivate a workplace culture that demonstrates zero-tolerance toward actual or threatened violence in the workplace.
Analysis and Conclusion
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than thirty (30) percent of all workplaces in the United States have a formal policy that addresses workplace violence.3
Employers have a duty to protect employees from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. The first step in fulfilling that duty is to implement and maintain a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Policy. Implementation of such policy will advance further protective actions, training, and programs.
If you have any questions or are in need of assistance in updating your Employee Handbook, please contact Caitlin A. Donahue at email@example.com or by phone at (717) 390-3020.
The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. By reading this article, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Cipriani & Werner, P.C., or any of our attorneys. No information contained in this article should be construed as legal advice from Cipriani & Werner, P.C. or the individual authors.