Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment and take basic security measures. Of the many dangers present in the workplace, domestic violence and stalking have been overlooked or dismissed by employers for far too long. Victims of domestic violence and stalking are often too embarrassed to inform employers of their situation, or are afraid that it will compromise their jobs.
This is slowly changing. Employers are being held responsible, at an increasing rate, for acts of domestic violence and violence related to stalkers, when they are aware of the danger and fail to take proper security measures.
Domestic violence can culminate in workplace violence against intimate partners and sometimes their coworkers, resulting in injury and even death.
According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, “A study of domestic violence survivors found that 74 percent of employed battered women were harassed by their partner while they were at work.”
The American Institute on Domestic Violence says, “Of the approximately 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence that occur in the US every year, 18,700 are committed by an intimate partner: a current or former spouse, lover, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend.”
In 2002, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) began requiring employers to report domestic violence incidents. Prior to that time, acts of domestic violence occurring at the workplace were exempt from reporting. Now, OSHA says that some acts of domestic violence can be prevented by employers who take basic measures to ensure worker safety.
The courts are beginning to hold employers responsible too, such as in the case of La Rose v. State Mutual Life Assurance Co. Francesia La Rose’s ex-boyfriend called her boss and told him that if he she was not fired he would come to the office and kill her. The next day he did just that. Because Ms. La Rose’s employer was aware of the danger and did nothing to prevent her death, her daughter and parents were awarded a combined $850,000.00 in the lawsuit.
A study by the Workplace Violence Research Institute found that as many as 15% of workplace homicides were related to stalking.
The National Violence Against Women Survey reports that, “25% of all stalking victims report losing time from work due to stalking and 7% never return to work.”
Stalking can initiate on the job with a customer, co-worker or someone else the victim come in contact with, or is merely observed by, in the course of the work day; or it can begin away from the job, often with the perpetrator being an intimate partner or mere acquaintance, and grow into a problem at the workplace.
Employers, who are made aware of stalking situations, have a duty to provide adequate security and to take any and all appropriate measures to protect employees including not only the stalking victim, but other employees who could be harmed in the event of an attack by the stalker. Basic security measures such as proper lighting and adequate security personnel and equipment can help. In some states employers can request a temporary restraining order on behalf of employees who are being stalked.
Murder is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace and one of the leading causes of death for men in the workplace. About 80% of stalking cases are women being stalked by ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends.
If you have questions about how workers compensation affects you in your particular employment situation or if you have a workers’ compensation claim, please contact an experienced workers compensation attorney today.