Usually you like to think of your place of business as reasonably pleasant. But recently your employee committed a violent crime -- at work! Apart from the blow to your ego, you are concerned about liability.
Can you be held responsible for an employee assault? How common is workplace violence anyway?
Employer Responsibility for Worker Acts
The answer is yes, you can be held liable. It's not that you are expected to anticipate any and every possible action people will take. But if you did not do something to make your workplace as safe as a business of that type is expected to be, then that's one reason you could end up on the hook for an employee's workplace assault.
As an employer, you can be held liable for an employee's acts on work time or property. In the case of a violent crime that yields jail or prison time particularly, the company is a likely target for a suit because it has deeper pockets than an incarcerated individual, meaning more money can be made to pay in damages.
Why the Company?
Apart from the possibility of more easily recovering a greater amount of money in damages from a company than an individual, there are arguments for employer liability having to do with responsibility. It makes companies more inclined to consider safety and security a priority worth spending on.
When an employer knows it must maintain employee safety or pay the price, businesses are more inclined to take security measures. In other words, employer liability makes safety measures seem cost effective for companies that might otherwise not wish to spend on what seems an unlikely event like a workplace assault.
Unfortunately, workplace violence is not that uncommon. According to the CDC, there are over 700 homicides in the workplace each year. If such an incident has happened at your business, you are clearly not alone.
If you are a business owner who has experienced workplace violence or just want to ensure you're doing everything possible to prevent it, consult with counsel. An attorney can advise you an all aspects of business operations and make sure the actions you take are legally sound. And if you do find yourself in trouble, counsel can defend you or refer you to the right lawyer for the case.
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