Every year, more than 2 million workers become victims of workplace violence. Violence in the workplace is becoming an issue of increasing concern, with the understanding that every employee has the right to go to work everyday without concern that they will be injured or killed through workplace violence. Illinois state and federal laws offer protections for individuals harmed in the workplace. If you have been injured through an assault on the job, contact an Illinois Workplace Assault attorney to talk about your rights.
Assault on the Job
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Violence is not limited to physical harm. Written threats and verbal abuse can also be considered workplace violence and should be taken seriously. While millions of Americans are affected by workplace violence every year, many cases go unreported.
Workplace violence can affect people in all walks of life, from doctors and lawyers to day laborers. Violence can come at the hand of another co-worker, customer, supervisor, or patient. However, some types of jobs have a greater risk of workplace violence. This includes people who handle money with the public, public service workers, law enforcement personnel, customer service workers, and individuals who work alone, such as housekeepers.
The group with the highest risk of workplace violence includes those in the healthcare field. This includes doctors, nurses, mental health workers, medical assistants, EMTs, hospital staff, paramedics, substance abuse counselors, and others. These workers may be working with people who are injured, have mental health problems, individuals on drugs or under the influence of alcohol, and people convicted of violent crimes. Many healthcare workers may also be in contact with patients while alone, or in small groups, leaving them prone to violent attacks.
There are a number of things states, employers, and employees can do to reduce the risks of workplace violence, and keep employees safe. This includes having a clear workplace violence policy, with zero-tolerance towards any violence in the workplace. Employees should also feel comfortable in their ability to report violence against themselves or another worker, without fear of retaliation. Any reports of workplace violence should be appropriately investigated and remedied.
State and Federal Workplace Violence Laws
Under federal law, workers have a right to a safe workplace. Employers are required to provide their employees with a safe workplace. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who report health and safety concerns, report an injury, or cooperate with authorities investigating claims of workplace violence.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees the right to file a complaint against their employer and request an OSHA inspection or investigation if they believe their employer is not following OSHA regulations or if there is a serious hazard in the workplace. OSHA has also issued guidelines on preventing violence in the workplace.
Under state law, Illinois has passed the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act (HCWVPA) to protect healthcare workers facing workplace violence. Finding violence was an escalating problem in many health care workplaces, the state sought to undertake efforts to ensure patients, visitors, and employees were safe from violence.
Another law, the Illinois Workplace Violence Prevention Act (WVPA) gives employers the ability to seek protection orders against potentially violent customers, former employees, or other third-parties who may have threatened violence against individuals in the workplace.
Reporting and Retaliation
It is important to report any incidents of workplace violence. This includes acts of physical violence, as well as threats or intimidation. If an employee, customer, or member of the public is threatening one employee, they may be threatening others as well. Report workplace violence to supervisors or the human resources department, and make sure the claim is taken seriously.
In many cases, employers or supervisors ignore workplace violence complaints, claiming that an employee is overreacting or they invited the threats. Some employers even retaliate against the employee for reporting violence, passing them over for advancement, giving them less desirable work, or even firing the employee under some other pretense. If your employer is not taking workplace violence seriously, or if you have been retaliated against for reporting violence, contact an experienced Illinois attorney.
Workplace Assault Lawsuits
Lawsuits, damages, and remedies for workplace violence incidents may depend on the specific facts of the case, and the relationship between the employee and the workplace. In many cases, an injury related to workplace violence may fall under workers' compensation. This may limit the injured worker's ability to seek damages from their employer.
Workers' compensation injuries may provide benefits for the worker while they are unable to return to full employment, as well as payment for their medical expenses related to the injury. However, in cases where the employer or insurance company denies a workers' compensation claim or drops the employee from coverage, the injured employee may be able to file a lawsuit to seek benefits and medical treatment for their injuries.
Independent contractors and other third-parties injured in the workplace are generally not covered by workers' compensation and can seek damages for their injuries through filing a personal injury lawsuit. They may be able to seek damages for medical bills, lost wages, future medical treatment, loss of future income, and pain and suffering.
An employer may also be liable for negligence in hiring, training, and supervising employees who inflict violence on others in the workplace. If an employer is negligent in hiring an employee, they may be liable for the breach of their duty to protect employees and customers from harm at the hands of an employee who poses a risk or harm to others. In some cases, an employer may have ignored past reports of violence activity, or failed to reasonably check an applicant's violent history.
Similarly, employers may be liable for negligent supervision or retention of an employee who poses a threat of harm. If an employee engaged in workplace violence and the employer retained the employee despite their prior act of violence, they may be liable if they retained the employee who engages in a future act of violence. Where an employer knows there is a risk of violence, they may be liable for negligent supervision if they fail to take appropriate actions to reduce that risk.
Illinois Workplace Assault Attorneys
If you were a victim of workplace violence or harassment, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois workplace violence law. If you were retaliated against for reporting violence, or you continue to face threats of violence on the job, you should contact a lawyer. Our attorneys have successfully handled workplace violence cases for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve.