Taking Violence Threats Seriously Protects Companies From Litigation, Reports
Story Filed: Wednesday, March 07, 2001 4:36 PM EST
NEW LONDON, Conn., Mar 7, 2001 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Investigating
threats of workplace violence not only helps defuse a violent situation but
also limits a company's legal exposure, says Lawrence A. Ginsberg, an
attorney with Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP (Los Angeles).
If a threat arises, Security should determine the type of threat, interview
potential witnesses, defuse the situation, and let an employee know if a
threat has been made against him or her. Above all, stay within the
boundaries of the law in order to help your company avoid exposing itself to
Although state laws vary, Ginsberg says there are some laws common to most
jurisdictions that Security should be aware of.
-- Failure to warn -- requires an employer to warn an intended victim of
-- "Respondeat superior" -- a company can be held liable for an employee's
act if the employee carries out the act in the "course and scope" of
-- Negligent hiring -- if a lack of "due care" in hiring results in
consequences that are reasonably foreseeable, the employer may be
While workers' compensation insurance statutes generally provide coverage for
injuries to employees from workplace violence, Ginsberg says there are a few
potential exceptions that may provide the basis for a civil action against a
-- Serious and willful conduct -- taking no steps or inadequate steps to
address prior instances of threats or violence.
-- Fraudulent nondisclosure -- an employee/victim can show that the
employer knew of a substantial risk to employees and did not warn them.
Keeping violence risks under control while protecting a company from
litigation is a careful balancing act for both Security and management. "In
conducting an investigation, and reaching conclusions that may result in an
employee's termination, there is a natural tendency to err on the side of
safety and potentially be overzealous in reporting conclusions adverse to the
accused," Ginsberg says. This tactic may seem like caution, but it can leave
the company open to a wrongful termination suit. Adequate security measures
must be taken to minimize threats and to deal with warning signs of workplace
violence, but must be done carefully and within the law.
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SOURCE Bureau of Business Practice
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