May an employer be held liable for workplace violence between co-workers?

Author: Jill Gormley, Strong and Clear Communications

Yes. An employer may be held liable for violence between co-workers under certain circumstances, such as if it is negligent in hiring, supervising or retaining an employee who is violent in the workplace. As such, an employer should be diligent in noting and responding to indicators of violence among employees.

Further, an employer may be held liable for violence between co-workers if an employee commits an act of violence in the course of the employee's duties. For example, if the employee is a security guard or a bouncer, and harms a patron in the course of performing job duties with excessive force, the employer may be held liable for those actions.

Finally, under federal law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act mandates that an employer maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees. Failure to do so may subject an employer to liability. An employer should also be sure to consult state law, which may address workplace violence with respect to concealed weapons in the workplace and the use of deadly force and the duty to retreat.