Managing Workplace Conflict: Violence in the Workplace — Part II

July 01, 2011
This is the second in our multi-part series about violence in the workplace and the employer’s challenging role to prevent misconduct and provide a safe and harmonious working environment, while at the same time managing the legal risks attendant to screening applicants, disciplining employees and otherwise acting to prevent harm. In Part I of the series we discussed employer exposure to claims under the general duty clause of the OSH Act. In this section, we turn to state law and various theories of liability typically raised by victims of workplace violence, including negligence claims (hiring, supervision and termination), premises liability and respondeat superior. In the context of an attack by an employee against other employees or third parties, these claims generally are grounded on the proposition that the employer knew or should have known, in the exercise of reasonable care that the employee had a propensity toward violence, yet hired or retained the perpetrator nonetheless.