Firm-Wide blog

Have you Experienced Violence in the Workplace?

By Burg Simpson
August 29, 2017
5 min read

Earlier this year, John Robert Neumann Jr. walked through the back door of his former place of employment in Orlando, Florida, with a handgun and a hunting knife. Within minutes, the 45-year-old man killed five of his former co-workers before turning the gun on himself as sheriff’s deputies approached.

Stories of workplace violence have become all too common, with roughly 2 million Americans reporting incidents of violence every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 417 workplace homicides in 2015, a 2 percent rise over the year before. Workplace shootings, specifically, are up 15 percent nationwide. Most workplace violence stories are not this graphic and are not going to make headlines. They involve healthcare workers that had to handle an unruly patient or possible an inmate in the jail.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines workplace violence as “act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”

Today, homicide is the fourth-leading cause of workplace deaths in the United States. If you have lost a loved one to senseless workplace violence, do not wait to contact our Colorado workers’ comp lawyers as soon as possible.

Categories of Workplace Violence

The Federal Bureau of Investigation organizes workplace violence incidents into four different categories:

  • TYPE 1: “Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.” Nearly 80 percent of workplace homicides fall into this category. These incidents are typically motivated by theft and involve firearms. The most likely victims of this type of violence include taxi drivers, retail workers, or anyone who works at night. For example, cab drivers are more likely are 20 times more likely to be killed on the job than anyone else.
  • TYPE 2: “Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.” These acts typically occur while workers are carrying out their normal job functions. The most common victims include law enforcement personnel and healthcare workers. In fact, violence is the third-leading cause of workplace fatalities among healthcare employees.
  • TYPE 3: “Violence against co-workers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.” Perpetrators of workplace violence are twice as likely to be co-workers rather than ex-employees.
  • TYPE 4: “Violence committed in the workplace by someone who does not work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee—an abusive spouse or domestic partner.” This is also referred to as personal relationship violence, which is often the culmination of domestic violence. The victims of this type of violence are almost always women.

Occupations with Higher Workplace Violence Incidents

Workplace violence affects some occupations much more than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common victims of workplace violence are:

  • Retail workers: 24 percent.
  • Leisure and hospitality employees: 17 percent.
  • Government personnel: 14 percent.
  • Manufacturing, agriculture, wholesale trade, construction workers: 13 percent.

There are a number of factors that make some occupations more vulnerable to violence than others. They can include jobs that involve exchanging money with the public (gas stations attendants) and working in a volatile, unstable environment (mental health professionals). People working alone or in isolated areas also can be at greater risk of violence. Finally, nighttime employment and going to work anywhere near high crime areas also present higher risks of workplace violence.

Warning Signs of Violence at Work

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are several warning signs that employers – and other employees – can look out for that might indicate someone is inclined to commit an act of workplace violence, such as:

  • Attendance problems – excessive sick leave, excessive tardiness, leaving work early, improbable excuses for absences.
  • Adverse impact on a supervisor’s time – supervisor spends a lot of time counseling employee about personal problems, re-doing the employee’s work, addressing co-worker concerns.
  • Decreased productivity – making excessive mistakes, poor judgment, missed deadlines, wasting work time, and materials.
  • Inconsistent work patterns – alternating periods of high and low productivity and quality of work, inappropriate reactions, overreaction to criticism, and mood swings.
  • Concentration problems – easily distracted and often has trouble recalling instructions, project details, and deadline requirements.
  • Safety issues – more accident prone, disregard for personal safety as well as equipment and machinery safety, and taking needless risks.
  • Poor health and hygiene – marked changes in personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual/changed behavior – inappropriate comments, threats, or throwing objects.
  • Possible drug or alcohol use/abuse.
  • Evidence of serious stress – crying, excessive phone calls, recent separation.
  • Continual excuses/blame – inability to accept responsibility for even the smallest mistakes.
  • Unshakable depression – low energy, little enthusiasm, despair.

Workplace violence can be terrifying and unpredictable. If you have been assaulted at work, or if you have lost a loved one to workplace violence, call our Colorado workmans’ comp lawyers at Burg Simpson today at 303-792-5595 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation form right now.

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