Workplace Violence

Attorney Jeffrey R. Davis handles workplace violence claims in Florida. Workplace violence can occur at or outside of the workplace. It can range from anything from verbal abuse to physical and sexual abuse. Nationally, 2 million victims are injured each year due to workplace violence. The FBI indicates that workplace violence is the #1 growing homicide in the country and the Center for Disease Control recognizes workplace violence as a national epidemic. In 2009 the Emergency Nurses Association survey indicated that more than 50% of ER nurses had experienced violence by patients on the job.

Here are a few sample workplace violence incidents in Florida and other states:

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Shouting “everyone is going to die,” a fired Fort Lauderdale maintenance employee walked into a meeting of his former co-workers and began shooting, killing five people and injuring another before turning the gun on himself. The employee had been fired after testing positive for drugs and threatening co-workers.

Los Angeles, CA – A city electrician with a 12 year work history shot and killed four of his supervisors when he learned he was facing possible dismissal for poor work performance. After the shooting the killer, 42 years old, quietly waited for police to arrive and arrest him. He was heard saying that he had specifically targeted the four murdered individuals because he “felt he was being picked on and singled out” by them.

Corpus Christi, TX – A former employee, 28 years old, walked into his previous place of employment and killed five workers with a handgun before turning it on himself.
Columbiana, AL – A 34-year old man shot and killed three co-workers after stating, “I’m tired of your rumors about me”.

Jackson, Mississippi – A 32-year-old fireman shot his wife through the head and then proceeded to a firehouse armed with several weapons. Using an assault rifle, the fireman shot 6 coworkers, all supervisors, killing 4 of them and seriously wounding another two. He then fled the scene and led police on a wild chase for 10 miles. At the end of the chase he exchanged gunfire with a police officer, who he wounded, before being shot in the head himself and critically injured. The president of the union representing the shooter described him as “a time bomb waiting to go off.”

In general, all Florida workers have the right to be safe at work – this includes mistreatment from their employers, employees, clients, and strangers. As a result of increasing acts of workplace violence, courts, local governments, and the national government are holding employers responsible for workplace violence incidents. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has defined workplace violence as “the threat of violence against workers.”

According to OSHA there are three categories of Workplace Violence:

  1. Stranger Violence – stranger versus employee. Example: an armed robbery. This accounts for approximately 60% of all workplace homicides;
  2. Client Violence – client versus worker. Example: social worker being attacked by a client. This accounts for approximately 30% of all workplace homicides;
  3. Employee Violence – employee versus employee. Example: an employee attacking a supervisor. This accounts for 10% of all workplace homicides.

An employer becomes responsible as a result of a workplace violence incident when the employer does not act to prevent or eliminate a known threat.

An injured employee may be able to bring a workplace violence claim under various theories:

  1. negligent security
  2. negligent failure to warn
  3. negligent retention
  4. negligent supervision.

An employer may also be liable under Federal laws (Occupation Safety and Health Act, Violence Against Women Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act) and State laws.