With over 2 million victims of violence in the workplace in the United States each year, employee safety is not something employers can ignore. What many employers do not realize is that incidents involving assault in the workplace are not only a potential criminal matter, but also may result in workers’ compensation coverage for any injuries that occur because of the violence.
The Illinois workers’ compensation laws protect employees by providing them with benefits in the event they are injured in the workplace without having to bring a lawsuit against their employer. In order for a workplace injury to be covered by workers’ compensation laws, the injury must be shown to have arisen out of and in the course of employment. Benefits that are available to an injured employee include medical treatment at no cost to them and disability benefits to make up for the lost income that may occur while the employee is recovering, and can even include the costs of vocational rehabilitation.
Violence in the Workplace
While many employers are aware of their duties to provide employees with a safe working environment, they often do not consider prevention programs for potential violence in the workplace. Violence can take many forms, including verbal abuse, offensive conduct (both verbal and physical), and interfering with another’s work. Depending on the nature of the conduct, any resulting injury may become a workers’ compensation issue. Specifically, courts will generally not hold an employer liable under workers’ compensation laws for injuries from an assault based on personal reasons. However, courts may find an injury to be compensable if the injured employee can show that the act of violence was motivated by a work-related matter. The court’s decision will be based on whether it can be shown that the injury “arose out of and in the course of” employment.
Prevention of Violence
Employers can take steps to help prevent injuries pursuant to workplace violence. Some things that an employer can do to protect its employees is to ensure that no unauthorized individuals can enter a secure workspace, monitor disagreements that occur between two employees and take action if necessary, and make sure that employees are provided clear instructions as to their job duties in order to minimize disputes over work. As of January 1, 2014, employers also have the ability to obtain an order of protection pursuant to the Illinois Workplace Violence Protection Act. Employees themselves also have a responsibility for reducing the potential for workplace violence. If an employee believes that he or she is being bullied or subjected to violent behavior in the workplace, it should be reported to their supervisor as soon as possible.
While not all occurrences of violence in the workplace are covered by workers’ compensation, it is important not to make assumptions without examining all possible options. Workers’ compensation is a very fact-specific area of law and, depending on the specific facts of a particular situation, what may initially seem to be outside an employer’s coverage may turn out to be a compensable injury. The Illinois workers’ compensation system was designed to ensure employees receive the level of care that they need after a workplace injury, without having to fight an expensive legal battle in court. Knowing whether a claim is covered is the first step to receiving benefits to which an injured employee is entitled.
Do you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim? Reach out to the Barrington workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. for a consultation and to discuss your case.