No matter their industry or specific position, all workers in Alabama deserve to be safe at work. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as workplace violence has been on the rise in recent years.
Following the news that President Trump has closed borders to 7 countries, many took to the airports to voice their frustrations. A reported 3,000 people peacefully rallied in Birmingham on January 29, 2017.
As strikes and protests began to emerge at airports across the United States, the safety of airport employees and other working individuals was called into question. Any time there is a strike or protest, there is a risk of violence.
But if violence erupts and an employee is injured as a result, who pays the bill?
In New York, Governor Cuomo passed legislation to strengthen protections for airport employees against workplace assault. But airports aren’t the only places where employees face potential violence. After Trump’s inauguration, protestors smashed windows of local businesses, including a Starbucks. Protestors aren’t the only danger, however. Other employees can become hostile and incite violence as well.
Statistics on workplace violence
An assault can happen anywhere at any time for any reason. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that more than 2 million employees fall victim to workplace violence each year.
Additionally, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), between 1992 and 2019, nearly 18,000 people were killed at work, with 454 homicides taking place in 2019 alone.
Also worth noting: Workplace violence that occurred between 2015 and 2019 affected workers 16 and over at a rate of 8 acts per every 1,000 people. During that same time period, approximately 529,000 workers had to seek medical attention in emergency rooms for their injuries.
What factors increase a worker’s chance of experiencing workplace violence?
Some factors can increase the chances of a worker experiencing workplace violence, including:
- Working during odd hours, such as very late at night or very early in the morning
- Working with the public
- Working alone or with very few coworkers
- Working in the transportation industry
- Working in areas known for high crime rates
- Working in law enforcement or at medical facilities and other high-stress places where people may be quick to anger or mentally unstable
Which industries experience the highest rates of workplace violence?
According to a report by the BLS, workers involved in certain industries have a higher rate of experiencing workplace violence. For instance, workers in health care and social assistance have a 5 times higher risk of workplace violence than workers in all other industries. In fact, health care workers accounted for about 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries in 2018.
Other occupations with a high risk of workplace violence include:
- Customer service
- Law enforcement
- Transportation and delivery
On October 1, 2017, 58 people were murdered at the Las Vegas Harvest 91 Music Festival. Over 500 were injured. Tragedies such as these can have devastating emotional effects for those workers involved.
Is workplace violence covered under Alabama workers’ compensation?
Violent assaults can happen on company premises, off-site job locations or while making deliveries. Thankfully, workers’ compensation gives employees injured from an assault the benefits they need to pay for medical expenses and lost wages.
If an employee is injured while working in the line and scope of their employment, then they will be covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. In other words, if the employee is performing their job duties and is injured, then workers’ compensation benefits apply.
What types of violent acts are covered under workers’ comp?
For an act of violence to be covered under workers’ comp, it must be initiated by another person while the employee is at work. For example, sudden, unexpected workplace violence, such as an attack from a coworker or customer, would be covered under workers’ comp.
Other covered violent acts would include the following:
- Criminal activity, such as a robbery at a store or a school shooting
- Disgruntled acts by terminated employees
When is violence not covered by workers’ compensation in Alabama?
Violence would likely not be covered under workers’ comp if you instigated the incident. For instance, if you start a fight with a coworker and get injured, you would not be eligible to file a workers’ comp claim.
Also, the violent act needs to have arisen out of your employment. So if an angry spouse assaults you at work because of an argument you had at home that morning, the incident likely wouldn’t be covered.
Other remedies after a workplace violence injury
Workers’ compensation is not the only remedy an injured employee might be able to recover, however. An employee victim of assault may pursue a third-party action for failure to protect them from undue harm and injury in the workplace. This could be a contractor, former employee, customer or client.
If a third party failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the incident, they may be civilly liable. Instances where this may apply include failing to perform a background check or failing to discipline an employee with aggressive behavior tendencies.
What should employers do to reduce workplace violence?
Employers can take the following steps to help reduce the risk of workplace violence:
- Conduct thorough background checks on all employees and prospective employees.
- Enact strict anti-violence policies and procedures for reporting instances of workplace violence.
- Employ security guards in high-risk environments.
- Conduct regular active shooter drills with staff so they know how to respond in such situations.
- Ensure that procedures are in place for resolving conflicts to prevent them from escalating.
Contact an experienced Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
Whether it’s airport security or a Starbucks barista, any employee subjected to workplace violence may recover workers’ compensation benefits in order to recoup the costs of medical expenses and lost wages. If assaulted, be sure to document the injuries and immediately file a claim.
Nomberg Law Firm has represented many employees over the years who were injured while working due to assault. If you’ve been injured at work and have questions about Alabama workers’ compensation benefits, contact the experienced work injury attorneys at Nomberg Law Firm today to discuss your rights.
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers magazine as well as a Top-Rated Attorney by B-Metro magazine.