Taking Violence Threats Seriously Protects Companies From Litigation, Reports

Security Watch






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

       substantial danger.

    -- "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

       job duties.

    -- 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.


To obtain a free sample issue of Security Watch, e-mail

ainslie.warner@aspenpubl.com. For related articles about security management,

visit http://www.bbpnews.com/safety/saf--portal.shtml.


SOURCE Bureau of Business Practice



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