If you or someone you know was recently involved in a physical altercation at work, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. The sooner you can speak with an attorney about your rights, the easier it will be to decide your next steps. Most people don’t know their rights or their potential liabilities when they find themselves in this situation.
No one wants to get into a fight at work. By the time you realize what's happened, it's already too late to undo, and you are left with countless questions about how to protect yourself and the potential consequences you may face going forward. If you get into a fight with someone else at work, you need to have a thorough plan for what to do moving forward.
There can be so many different things to think about and your job could be at risk as well as your physical health. Dealing with a fight at work often involves an outside attorney to assist you with any legal claims that you might have. Violence in the workplace has grown increasingly common, and you cannot always predict when someone is on the edge and prepared to fight.
What Happens in the Workplace After a Fight Occurs
Your employer should have both plans to prevent attacks and workplace violence as well as plans for responding in the moment if a fight breaks out.
A sudden attack can also be problematic from the perspective of a thorough investigation. Who started the fight? Were there previous incidents that might have prompted this to happen? All of these are common questions that need to be asked by human resources and they may not have all of the facts of the case or the background unless you're prepared to discuss this. Knowing who will be blamed can also impact the outcome of the case.
If one of the people involved in the fight was the primary attacker and started this entire incident, you need to be prepared to present evidence supporting the same. You might also have grounds to file a lawsuit against the employer if there were reasons that they should have held back this employee from being hired in the first place or from being given as much responsibility or freedom as they have. If the employer should have done a better background check, provided better security or done something else to prevent the attack you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation.
There are many different issues of liability that emerge when a fight at work happens. The person who instigated the initial attack could have direct liability for the battery. This can lead to both criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit against the responsible party. Battery refers to unwelcome touching and any damages that occurred due to that battery, such as lost wages due to missed work, property damage costs or medical expenses associated with treating the injury. This will all be evaluated by a judge in determining whether or not a financial award should apply. This is separate from any criminal charges that may be associated with the battery issue too. If there are any sexual elements associated with the attack, this could carry heavier criminal sentences and be much more serious toward the attacker. Liability doesn't just apply to the alleged attacker.
The employer is another common target in these civil lawsuits when an employee gets seriously hurt at work. You would need to consult with an experienced lawyer to determine what to do if you get into a fight at work. Sharing the specific facts of your case can eliminate you as civil laws that might protect you and some of the evidence you'll need to collect immediately.
Your Action Steps Post Attack
Most people don't know what to do if you get into a fight at work but being prepared to consult with an attorney can lay the groundwork for your next steps. Your employer might have liability when it comes to a few different legal theories. For example, the premises liability theory might expose your employer to being held accountable whether or not the attacker was a customer, employee or someone else. Furthermore, your employer could also be held accountable if the attacker was a person who was on a clock, doing their job for the same employer during the attack. This could also apply in the event that the accident didn't happen in the workplace because of a legal theory that makes employers responsible for acts of their employees while acting in the course of their duty.
You may hear this referred to as respondeat superior. If the employer should have known about the person's propensity to attack or did know about this propensity, and employed this person regardless, this could also create a legal theory around negligent retention or hiring. There are so many different theories of liability that could apply in your case that it's important to hire an attorney who knows what to do if you get into a fight at work.
One of the most common issues associated with an attack in the workplace is whether or not discipline will apply to one, both or all parties. All too often the person who was attacked on the job gets disciplined along with the attacker which is very frustrating. This is very true in the event that the attacker is a client or a customer, in which case the employer might downplay the potential consequences and refuse to get the employee the support that they deserve. It can be very complicated to sort through the legal issues of what to do if you get into a fight at work, which is why you need to engage possible outside parties, such as a union representative or a civil attorney. Those who are in non-union workplaces could be disciplined or terminated even if the fight was not their fault. This is because in a right to work state, employees can be terminated by the employer for any reason or for no reason at all. The easiest and path of least resistance for employers is to dismiss everyone who was involved in the fight regardless of whether or not it was their fault. Other forms of discipline outside of termination can also be a challenge for someone hurt in an attack. Blame for the fight might be distributed among numerous different parties which can be very frustrating for someone who believes they were the subject of a one sided attack.
What Should I Do If I Am Attacked at Work?
One of the most important things you can do immediately after an attack happens at work is to contact the police. Your employer might try to defuse the situation or tell you that you don't need to involve outside parties but you need to protect your rights as a victim and get support from the police as soon as possible. Having a police report that shows you contacted them for immediate help can go a long way towards supporting your right to file a claim both in civil and criminal cases. Once you have left the scene and gotten attention for any medical injuries, you need to contact an attorney. Speaking about the specifics of the case as well as any concerns you have about how your employer responded to it will give you a better appraisal of your legal rights in this situation and also help protect you from liability. You need to be guided through the entire legal process when you have been attacked at work and in this serious matter you need to be prepared to fight back.
What Are Employers Responsible For?
Employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees. Employers should be involved in taking any necessary safety precautions to minimize the possibility of attacks at work. It is possible that making other personnel feel safe means firing one or more employees. Employers should also review their existing policies around harassment and attacks to be clear about the consequences. If this is documented in your employee handbook and in company policies what the result will be from an onsite attack, you need to be prepared to hold that employer accountable if they deviate from that.
All employees should be on notice about how fights, physical and verbal, will be handled and when they know what to expect and it's clearly documented in a policy manual will be much less likely to pursue a lawsuit. That being said, employers who deviate from these rules and expose employees to unnecessary risks on the job could be held accountable in the form of a civil lawsuit. Make sure you speak to an experienced attorney about what to do if you get into a fight at work.
Don’t try to handle your case on your own. Outside help can assist you with making sense of difficult and time-sensitive information when a fight that broke out at work left you with injuries.
If you’ve found yourself mixed up in such a situation, contact the experts at Morgan & Morgan today to get a free case evaluation to get started with moving forward from this unfortunate circumstance.