Employer Liability for Workplace Violence

Topics: Loss Control

The safety of company employees is a top concern for all employers. This is why having a plan in place to address workplace violence issues can be key in preventing certain dangerous situations. Safety training programs, physical assessments of property and creating a workplace violence prevention policy can all help decrease the likelihood of violent incidents.

Weapons Policy in the Workplace

Within the workplace violence prevention policy, employers should include information addressing firearms and other weapons. In general, companies are not held responsible for crimes committed by their employees, however, they could be considered negligent in the event of occupational violence.

Guns in Parking Lots

In 26 states, laws have been passed that protect employees’ rights to store firearms in their personal cars in their employer’s parking lot. In fact, these “parking lot laws” are considered to be the most common topic surrounding guns in the workplace.

Tennessee’s parking lot law is a prime example. The issue of guns in the company parking lot was raised by workers after the state’s legislature declared that guns were allowed in the workplace. Companies in Tennessee are prohibited from preventing employees with handgun carry permits to store a firearm and ammunition in their car on company premises, provided the employees satisfy certain requirements. First, the employee’s vehicle must be parked where it is allowed to be. While the individual is in the car, the firearm and ammunition must be “kept from ordinary observation.” Then, when the owner is away from the vehicle, the firearm and ammunition must be kept secured in the trunk, glove box or other container in the locked vehicle.

The parking lot laws vary for each state, although almost all of them specifically allow an employer to prohibit firearms in a company-owned vehicle. And, many states have additional restrictions as well, such as Georgia who exempts certain organizations from their state parking lot law, including jails, electric utilities and employers with parking lots next to facilities providing natural gas, vital law enforcement services and more. Utah and Florida have similar exemptions for government agencies, schools and religious organizations.

In the states that don’t have established parking lot laws to address guns on a company’s property, it’s the employer’s responsibility to create a policy that addresses their position on the possession of firearms and ammunition. If there’s no such policy, as long as employees are in accordance with any state and federal laws, they may be allowed to carry firearms on company premises.

What is an Employer’s Liability for Employees’ Possession of Firearms?

Asking potential employees during the interview process if they are a gun owner or have a concealed carry permit is one way to find out if firearms could be an issue in the workplace. However, according to the law, this could actually be considered discrimination. In Indiana, for instance, unless the gun is used on the job, it’s illegal for employers to ask employees if they own any guns.

If an employer has the lawful right to restrict guns at the workplace or in parking lots, and yet they have no policy to do so, are they liable for injuries resulting in an incident involving guns on company property? For most states, there’s no clear answer to this question.

This is why it’s essential for employers to develop company policies for workplace violence and safety as a whole. If their goal is to outright ban guns on company premises, they must comply with their specific state’s laws. Also, the policy should not only cover violent acts, but also issues like sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying. Make sure rules and the corresponding disciplinary actions to offenders are clearly stated. This policy can help minimize liability for employers.

Avoiding Workplace Violence

According to OSHA, an employer must provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” With workplace violence an ever-growing concern for both employers and their employees, as mentioned above, it’s important to have a policy set in place to keep everyone as safe as possible.

With this in mind, AmTrust’s Loss Control department offers a variety of active attacker resources on our website, with information from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and more. Being aware of some of the common warning signs in employees like erratic behavior, drug or alcohol abuse, changes in performance or hostile feelings towards others, as well as taking the right steps to intervene can help your organization avoid a dangerous or violent situation.

Loss Control from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department knows that access to the right safety resources and commercial property safeguards can help your organization take a proactive approach in reducing workplace injuries and improving employee safety. For more information about our small business insurance solutions please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact with your local RSM for more information.

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