Workplace violence is a serious problem affecting a significant number of workers and families in Florida. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports some 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence annually. Although that figure is substantial, one must also consider that many instances are never reported.
The Ansara Law Firm’s Fort Lauderdale work injury attorneys are compassionate and dedicated to fighting for the rights of workers and families affected by workplace violence.What Is Workplace Violence?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines workplace violence as either an act or threat of violence while a person is at work. This can range from verbal abuse to physical assault to homicide.
In fact, homicide is the No. 4 cause of deadly work injuries in the US.
It can impact and involve not just employees, but clients, visitors and customers. That means it could be a disgruntled co-worker, but it could also be a robbery or attack carried out by a person or patient suffering confusion, dementia or mental instability. One in 10 workplace homicides is carried out by an angry customer or co-worker.
Our Fort Lauderdale lawyers should note that if a worker is injured or killed in a domestic or personal dispute while at work, they may have a more difficult time obtaining workers’ compensation coverage. Although the worker doesn’t need to prove the employer was negligent in failing to protect them, he or she will need to show the incident arose out of and occurred in the scope of one’s employment.
For example, a jealous husband who shoots and kills his wife at work is a tragedy, but probably not one covered by workers’ compensation. However, if a customer begins stalking a sales representative and later attacks her, that could likely would be compensable.Who Are Workplace Violence Victims?
Violence can happen at any work setting and to virtually any type of worker, but there are some professions that tend to be higher risk. Some of those include:
- Protective Services
Those professions tend to suffer high rates of workplace violence that results in fatalities.
In cases that result in the highest rates of non-fatal violence and injuries, those professions are:
- Health care
- Social assistance workers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the breakdown of workplace violence victims are:
- 67 percent female
- 69 percent having worked in the health care or social service industry
- 23 percent needing 31 or more days away from work to recover.
OSHA outlines other specific risk factors for workers, including:
- Employees who exchange money with members of the public.
- Persons who deliver services, goods or passengers.
- Employees who work alone or in smaller groups.
- Workers whose hours are either late at night or early in the morning.
- Employees who work in areas known to be high-crime.
- Those who work in homes or have extensive contact with the public or patients (i.e., health care workers, social service workers, visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, probation officers).
- Community workers (i.e., utility workers, cable and phone installers, letter carriers, etc.)
- Taxi drivers
- Retail workers
Unfortunately, nothing can guarantee a worker will be safe from workplace violence, but our Fort Lauderdale attorneys know that employers have a responsibility to enact reasonable measures to try.Compensation for Workplace Violence Claims in Florida
Although occupational violence is not unique to Florida, this state does stand out in one key respect: Lawmakers have made it very difficult for a victim or surviving family members to successfully sue an employer for these incidents.
Business lobbyists have successful pushed for measures that act as a legal shield around companies against claims of negligence. That means even in situations where the company may have been obviously negligent in failing to stop a known threat, it can be very tough for workers to sue for damages, as the state workers’ compensation law grants wide immunity to employers and there are very few exceptions.
However, what workers and their families can do is pursue claims for workers’ compensation with the assistance of an attorney. Workers’ compensation will cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages (two-thirds) for those who miss more than a week of work as a result of their injuries. Families of those who die in workplace violence incidents may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits.
Contact Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Richard Ansara at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 for a free consultation.