Roughly 2 million American workers are victimized by workplace violence each year. While no individual or industry is immune, some are at heightened risk thanks to their lines of work.
Those at the highest risk, as noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, include those who work: at night, alone or in small groups, exchanging money with the public, delivering goods, in high-crime areas, in healthcare, and those having extensive contact with the public in their homes (e.g., visiting nurses, probation officers, home health aides, gas utility employees, phone/cable installers).
Workplace violence is broken down by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into four major groups:
- Violent acts by those with no connection to the workplace but to commit robbery or other crimes
- Violent acts by employees, clients, patients or students against others who provide services
- Violence against co-workers, supervisors or managers by a present or former employee
- Violence committed at the workplace by someone with a personal relationship with employee, not necessarily related to the job
When is Workplace Violence Injury Compensable Via Workers’ Compensation?
In terms of New Jersey workers’ compensation claims, the type of violence will have a direct impact on whether a person injured at work will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, in addition to whatever injury claim they may have against the attacker (which may or may not be viable, depending on the situation).
For instance, when workplace violence stems from a domestic dispute that simply occurs at work, it may not be compensable. It’s determined on a case-by-case basis, but generally, New Jersey courts have ascertained that coverage is not available unless there is some connection or contributing factor between the job and the motivation for the intentional attack.
NJSA 34:15-8 does specifically say workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy, prohibiting legal action by an employee against a fellow employee for an on-the-job injury.
What Can Employers Do to Limit Workplace Violence?
Employers are not powerless in these situations, and they have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace free of foreseeable dangers to workers. One of those may well be workplace violence, given prior incidences as well as the type of business.
Some protective measures can include:
- Securing the workplace. Cameras, extra lighting, alarm system, ID badges, electronic keys ” each can go a long way, depending on the nature of the workplace.
- Giving field staff cell phones, hand-held alarms, noise devices, etc., which will enable them to keep in contact with other personnel.
- Providing strict instructions to employees not to enter a location if they feel unsafe.
- Keeping drop safes for limited amounts of cash to keep on hand. This is particularly important in high-crime areas.
If you have been injured by violence at work, an attorney at the Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC can help you examine the legal options available to you for financial recovery.