Workplace Violence in Georgia: Employer Responsibilities and Employee Rights
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical harm, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can affect employees, customers, clients, or visitors. Workplace violence can range from verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is one of the leading causes of work-related deaths in the United States, and Georgia is no exception.
In this post, we will discuss the causes of workplace violence, the legal responsibilities of employers to prevent and address it, and the rights of employees who experience or witness it. We will also provide some resources for further information and support. This post is intended for people living in Atlanta, Georgia who are keen to learn more about their rights and obligations in relation to workplace violence.
The causes of violence in the workplace
There is no single factor that causes workplace violence, but rather a combination of individual, organizational, and environmental factors. Some of the common risk factors include:
- Stressful working conditions, such as high workload, low pay, long hours, or lack of control
- Poor communication, conflict, or lack of respect among coworkers or managers
- Inadequate security measures, such as poor lighting, unlocked doors, or lack of surveillance
- Exposure to violent customers, clients, or visitors, especially in health care, social service, retail, or hospitality settings
- Personal problems, such as mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, or financial difficulties
These factors do not necessarily lead to violence, but they can increase the likelihood or severity of violent incidents. Therefore, it is important to recognize and address them before they escalate into violence.
Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This includes taking reasonable steps to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Some of the actions that employers should take are:
- Developing and implementing a written workplace violence prevention policy and program that covers all employees and work sites
- Conducting regular risk assessments to identify and eliminate potential hazards and sources of violence
- Providing training and education for employees on how to recognize, avoid, and report workplace violence
- Establishing clear procedures for reporting and investigating incidents of workplace violence
- Providing support and assistance for victims and witnesses of workplace violence, such as medical care, counseling, or legal advice
- Taking appropriate disciplinary or legal action against perpetrators of workplace violence
Employers who fail to comply with these obligations may face fines, lawsuits, or criminal charges. They may also lose productivity, reputation, or morale among their employees.
Employees have the right to work in a safe and respectful environment free from violence. They also have the right to report any incidents of workplace violence without fear of retaliation or discrimination. Some of the rights that employees have are:
- Filing a complaint with OSHA if they believe that their employer is not providing a safe work environment
- Seeking medical attention for any injuries sustained as a result of workplace violence
- Requesting reasonable accommodations for any physical or mental impairments caused by workplace violence
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim if they are unable to work due to workplace violence
- Filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or the employer if they suffer damages from workplace violence
- Contacting law enforcement authorities if they are threatened or assaulted by someone at work
Workplace violence is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for workers and employers. It is important to act against workplace violence and seek help if needed. Some resources for further information and support are:
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Violence Prevention Program: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/violence/default.html
- The Georgia Department of Labor Workplace Violence Prevention Guide: https://dol.georgia.gov/sites/dol.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/Workplace%20Violence%20Prevention%20Guide.pdf
- The Georgia Commission on Family Violence: https://gcfv.georgia.gov/
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or https://www.thehotline.org/
Workplace violence is a serious issue that affects many workers in Georgia. It can cause physical injury, emotional trauma, financial loss, or even death. Therefore, it is essential that employers and employees work together to prevent and address workplace violence. By following the guidelines and resources provided in this post, you can help create a safer and more respectful work environment for yourself and others.