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Negligent Security and Workplace Violence: Employer Liability and Prevention Measures

Donald Singleton
July 18, 2023

Globally, almost one out of four (23%) employees experienced violence or harassment in the workplace in 2022. Considering these numbers, it’s more important than ever for employers to step up and ensure they’re providing a safe and secure workplace for every employee.

One important aspect of creating a safe workplace is ensuring adequate security is in place. Negligent security and workplace violence often go hand in hand.

Have you recently experienced workplace violence that might have been prevented if adequate security had been in place? Are you experiencing significant financial losses as a result of the violence? If so, then you’ll want to get informed regarding your legal rights and options. Find out more about negligent security, workplace violence, and how our firm can help you navigate this type of legal situation below.

Definition of Negligent Security and Workplace Violence

Negligent security in the context of a workplace violence incident means that your employer failed to uphold their legal duty to provide for your care and safety as their employee.

The legal definition of terms like ‘negligent security’ can make your situation sound a lot more complex than it needs to sound, though. In a nutshell, negligent security means that the security measures in place at the time of your workplace violence incident did not meet the legal threshold of reasonable security measures that should’ve been in place to properly protect you.

In other words, a different reasonable employer would’ve had better security measures in place to protect you.

Potential Liability for Employers

Employers become legally liable as a result of specific OSHA laws. These laws state that employers have a legal duty and responsibility to provide a safe workplace. When they fail to do so, they become legally (and financially) responsible for any losses that result from that failure to uphold their legal duty.

If an employee experiences a workplace violence incident due to their employer’s failure to provide a safe workplace, then that employee can seek out a civil claim against the employer.

If it’s determined that the employer was negligent, then they might be held responsible for any of your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses associated with your workplace violence incident.

Reasonable Prevention Measures

One of the crucial aspects you’ll need to prove to demonstrate that your employer was negligent is that reasonable prevention measures were not in place to prevent your workplace incident. In general, you’ll want to demonstrate how a different reasonable employer would’ve put better safety measures in place under similar circumstances.

Some common types of prevention measures that most employers should have in place include:

  • Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence
  • Educate employees about this no-tolerance policy
  • Train employees on how to navigate potential workplace violence situation that could arise
  • Create a workplace violence prevention program
  • Consider installing video surveillance cameras
  • Causes of Workplace Violence

According to OSHA, workplace violence is defined as any type of threat of physical violence, act of physical violence, disruptive behavior, harassment, or intimidation tactic that occurs in the workplace. Workplace violence might impact employees, but it could also have lasting effects on visitors, customers, and clients.

Workplace violence can arise for many reasons, including due to employer negligence and a lack of reasonable security measures being in place. Below, we’ll go over in more detail what types of behaviors would be considered workplace violence as well as more on what causes these incidents.

Threats of Violence

Threats of violence mean any type of interaction where one party uses the intimidation tactic of saying they will use physical force, a weapon, or another form of coercion to make the other party do what they want. This type of threat could come from employees towards customers, or it could be threats of violence between employees.

Either way, this is unacceptable and needs to be addressed by employers.

Acts of Physical Violence

Acts of physical violence include any type of assault, battery, inappropriate touch, or even homicide that occurs at the worksite. Unfortunately, acts of violence are the third-leading cause of fatal work-related injuries in the U.S. according to OSHA.

Disruptive Behavior

Disruptive workplace violence behavior could include bullying, creating a hostile work environment, making offensive statements, harassment, unwanted threats, intimidation, or other types of actions that disrupt an employee from feeling secure and safe at work.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can happen at the workplace when one party makes unwanted and inappropriate sexual advancements towards another employee. This type of behavior is considered workplace violence. Employers should have a direct and clear sexual harassment and assault policy as well as regular training for employees.

Risk Factors for Workplace Violence

According to OSHA, one of the biggest risk factors that could expose employees to workplace violence is a role that involves exchanging money with the public. Working with volatile, unstable people is a close second.

Employers must also consider a host of other risk factors that could contribute to workplace violence. Below, we’ll go over some of the most common contributing factors that could lead to a workplace violence incident.

High Stress Environments

High stress environments are inevitably going to create situations where emotions and tensions run high. At the slightest sign of problems, conflict could arise. High stress environments can also be made worse when personal issues or domestic conflicts spill over into the workplace. Personal conflicts between coworkers as well as conflicts between former employees and management could also add to potential violent conflicts arising.

Poorly Trained Supervisors or Managers

Another common factor that plays a role in workplace violence is poorly trained supervisors and managers. Far too often, violent incidents at the workplace come about after months of warning signs. If intervention had taken place in some cases, then the violence could’ve been prevented. Proper training helps supervisors and managers identify these types of issues that could potentially lead to bigger problems in the future.

Poor Hiring Practices and Negligent Retention

Unfortunately, sometimes your employer might hire an employee with a violent history. Even worse, they may not even know about the person’s violent past if they fail to do a proper background check on the employee before hiring them.

Employers are expected to do their due diligence when hiring employees. They’re obligated to provide a safe workplace, which includes ensuring they are hiring safe people to work alongside their existing staff.

Negligent retention happens when an employer knows, or should reasonably know, about an employee’s violent tendencies and fails to take the proper measures to fire the person before an incident occurs. If that person later causes a violent workplace incident, then the employer’s failure to act could be considered negligent.

Lack of Security Protocols and Procedures

Employers should also have certain security protocols and procedures in place to prevent workplace violence. A failure to have these in place is a major risk factor for workplace violence. Employees might feel more comfortable committing violence because they think they’ll get away with it.

On the flip side, the proper security measures will act as a deterrent for workplace violence. Taking certain steps, like installing security cameras for example, works to stop violence before it happens.

Legal Responsibilities for Employers to Protect Employees from Workplace Violence

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from all kinds of workplace violence. Not every workplace violence incident can be prevented, but employers are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees.

If an employer fails to uphold their legal duty to provide for the safety of their employees, then employees may have the legal basis to seek out compensation for any losses they endure as a result of that breach of duty of care.

Reasonable Steps to Deter Workplace Violence

One of the toughest things you’ll have to prove if you do decide to seek out negligent security workplace violence claim is that your employer was negligent. To show that your employer failed to uphold their duty of care towards you, you’ll need to prove that they did not take reasonable steps to deter workplace violence.

What may be considered reasonable steps may vary based on several factors like:

  • Whether violence has occurred in the workplace before
  • If conflict between employees is known before the violent incident occurs
  • If the employer has a standard workplace policy in place
  • If the employer has an action plan to prevent workplace violence
  • If the employer used any preventative measures
  • If there were ways for employees to safely report warning signs of workplace violence

Do You Think Negligent Security Contributed to Your Workplace Violence Incident?

Negligent security and workplace violence often go hand in hand. When reasonable and proper security measures are in place at your jobsite, the likelihood of becoming a victim of workplace violence decreases significantly.

Not every workplace violence incident, however, is a result of negligent security. To learn more about whether the legal basis to seek out a claim exists in your situation, it’s advised that you get in touch with a negligent security attorney about what happened.

Our attorneys will listen to the facts surrounding your workplace incident, educate you further on your legal options and rights, and help you make an informed decision on whether seeking out a legal claim is in your best interests or not. If you’re ready to speak with a lawyer, then leave your contact details on our online form now to schedule a consultation with our office.

Donald Singleton

Donald Singleton


A Georgia native, Don founded Singleton Law Firm in 1999 as a continuation of his lifetime commitment to serving his state and community. He has concentrated his trial practice to representing victims of serious injury and wrongful death arising out of trucking, car, bus and motorcycle accidents, premises liability and a wide variety of other causes.

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