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human resources, labor relations


human resources, labor relations

Workplace Violence Update!

SHRM Announcement

Employer's Liability

Resources on Workplace Violence

Summary / Contact


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button Transcription of A Conversation With Bob Braun

Violence in the Workplace -
"A loaded gun at the head of the employer".


Violence in the workplace is truly the next major factor in employment that the employer will have to deal with.

When does off the job violent conduct create a liability for the employer?
Here are two scenarios.

The employee engages in violent conduct off the job site ... gets in a lot of tavern fights, has emotional problems, and beats his wife. When does that conduct create a liability for the employer to other employees?

Now, the employer may not even know about this conduct. What's the employer's duty to learn - and know about it and take preventative action? We don't know the answer to that yet, but some courts are saying that the employer has that duty.

Conversely, you have employed a spouse. The spouse is a quiet, hard working, person... but she comes to work beat up from time to time. She occasionally needs days off... she winds up in the emergency room from time to time. She has to leave work in a hurry after getting a phone call from her husband.

When does this employee's condition and conduct create liability for the employer?

In other words, lets say this employee has been coming to work beat up for months ... the employer notices that this employee is beat up, and that the beatings seem to be getting more severe. And then one day the employee's spouse comes down to the job site and shoots the employee (his spouse)... and in the course of this murders 2 or 3 other employees.

Did the employer have an obligation to observe that this woman was being beaten, and somehow or other take some sort of steps to prevent the spouse from coming down to the job site and murdering people?

And what steps should the employer be taking? Does the employer now become liable to all these innocent employees' spouses for wrongful death?

Some courts seem to say yes.

What does the employer need to do about that? Here's the problem that I see with this trend...

There is no one, individual solution to the problem.

Each and every one of these cases is going to have to be identified by the employer and individually treated for how they are going to address it.


But an employer would need guidance....


Absolutely. What they are going to have to do is that either they will have to learn how to deal with those problems on a case by case basis, or they are going to have to get a hold of somebody that they can rely upon to come up with creative solutions to each and every one of these individual problems.

They are either going to have to hire somebody that knows how to do it, learn how to do it themselves... or get a hold of me! I mean that's what it really boils down to.

I think this issue is a very big danger for employers. An internal grievance procedure, again, helps address it because it resolves all employment disputes... BUT ... you can't necessarily bind the spouse of the employee for the wrongful death action that might be caused by the employer.


But if you create an 'escape valve' or some release for that employee ... lets say the woman who's getting beat up... to notify the employer, or somehow ask for help, wouldn't that be a method to work towards remedying the situation?


The issue seems to be that even if you provide some avenue to this employee, you still have an affirmative obligation to notice what is going on... and possibly do something about it. And it isn't an easy fix.

Let's say that the employer adopts a rule (which some employers have) that there will absolutely be NO weapons of any form on the premises of the employer. There will be no personal protective equipment on the premises of the employer.

For example: you can't bring your pepper spray to work. So now the employer has eliminated all possible avenues for the employee to self defend. Does the employer take on the obligation then of creating a secure environment, so that the employer now is obligated to defend all of those employees? And how does the employer do that? Employ a private police force?

So that's why I am saying that employers are going to need guidance this area.

Copyright 1998, Braun Consulting Group.

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