Workplace violence has become a serious issue for employers throughout the United States. In the wake of the recent mass shootings that occurred in San Bernardino, CA and Hesston, KA, both of which occurred at least in part at an employer’s workplace, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for violence in the workplace and ways in which it can be prevented. Although these two incidents may not have been foreseeable or preventable, these incidents will nevertheless bring more attention to this issue, including by litigants and regulators.
Workplace violence can be categorized in three ways:
- Violence by an employee;
- Violence by a stranger; or
- Violence by a known third party.
Depending on the facts of each incident, an employer may be faced with a lawsuit and/or a regulatory investigation and enforcement action. In Virginia, the law generally shields employers from liability for physical harm caused to employees or customers by the violent acts of co-employees or third parties. However, even if an employer evades civil liability, employers may still be subject to an investigation by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, and incur significant civil penalties.
Given the potential for both a civil suit and a government investigation, employers should implement workplace policies and programs that help keep the workplace safe and free of workplace violence. This article details the potential legal liabilities and penalties employers may incur from workplace violence incidents, and provides guidance on how prevent such incidents or liabilities from occurring. Continue reading