• The Workplace
  • Report
  • K-12
  • Higher Ed

The Double-Edged Sword of Workplace Violence: A Liability Predicament for Employers

Hillary Pettegrew, Esq.
April 2021

Why Read This

A rash of violence can put many employers on edge, especially if they have laid off employees or anticipate doing so.

While incidents involving violence in the workplace grab national headlines, they remain rare. In the education community, United Educators’ (UE’s) claims experience suggests the greater risk for employers lies in lawsuits that stem from institutions’ attempts to prevent workplace violence. In fact, most claims in this area against UE members have involved employees’ challenges to discipline imposed either because they were alleged to have engaged in violence or threats or because the institution believed the employee was potentially violent.

This report provides recommendations for addressing workplace violence and guidance on how to avoid employment liability.

Key Takeaways

  • While no one-size-fits-all solution exists for a policy on workplace violence, consider your institution’s own needs, campus culture, and experience; it’s generally recommended that you state that your institution has zero tolerance for violent acts or threatening behavior.
  • Since front-line supervisors are likely the first to spot trouble, train them on your institution’s policies and procedures regarding violence.
  • UE’s claims experience demonstrates that institutions’ concern about protecting their campus community from potentially dangerous people can sometimes lead those institutions to ignore or violate their own policies — or even the law.

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