As we discussed in the first section of this four-part article, eliminating the elements that can lead to workplace violence can be challenging for an employer. Monitoring employees’ workplace conduct and accomplishing important project tasks can be a difficult balancing act for an employer. As Florida OSHA attorneys, we are here to offer guidance to our construction professionals to help prevent any situations from escalating at their worksite.
OSHA’s Stance on Workplace Violence
Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no policies directly related to workplace violence, under General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), the law mandates that employers must provide their workers with a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” While the language in this clause is a little broad, it can include incidents of workplace violence. Despite the fact that liability issues for the employer are determined on a case-by-case basis, it’s important for employers to understand the potential ways they could be considered responsible for a situation escalating within the legal context.
Ways Employers May Be Found Liable
Here are a few of the ways an employer could be found liable for an employee’s actions pertaining to workplace violence:
Negligent Hiring: If an employer hired an employee that has had a “checkered past” with repeat examples of violent tendencies or a criminal record the employer may be considered liable for not having performed a background check.
Violent Behavior in the Workplace: If an employer failed to reprimand an employee that showcased violent behavior in the workplace and that employee’s behavior continued to escalate until an act of workplace violence transpired, the employer may be considered liable considering they made no effort to improve the workplace environment before the incident transpired.
Threat From Third Party: If a threat is made from outside of the workplace by a disgruntled former employee or family member of an employee or former client, the employer is legally obligated to provide the workplace with proper safety measures. If the person acted on their threat and the employer did not safeguard the workplace, the employer could be found liable.
Unresolved Complaint: If an employee files a complaint about a coworker they consider as threatening and the employer fails to follow up on the complaint or investigate the claim, the employer may be considered liable if this situation continues to escalate.
Although many of the aspects of workplace violence can be difficult to control, in sections three and four, we will offer construction industry professionals advice on ways to appropriately monitor and prevent hostile situations from escalating at the workplace.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.