Workplace violence is a serious safety and health issue. While no federal law specifically addresses violence in the workplace, several laws impose a duty on employers to maintain a safe workplace.
For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) imposes a general duty on all employers to provide employees with a workplace that is free from hazards. Federal civil rights laws also require employers to keep the workplace free from threats of violence, and state workers’ compensation laws make employers responsible for injuries sustained by employees in the workplace.
In addition, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Act (IOSHA) requires employers to provide a safe workplace. Indiana law also allows employers to seek a temporary restraining order or injunction against any person who poses a threat in the workplace.
The IOSHA makes employers primarily responsible for the safety and health of their employees. The law requires employers to provide a workplace that is free from hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Employers must also keep employees informed about:
The law specifically requires employers to display an official poster about these topics in a prominent location in the workplace.
Employers that fail to comply with IOSHA may be subject to penalties. Specifically, an employer may be fined up to $7,000 for any of the following:
An employer that knowingly commits any IOSHA violation may be fined at least $5,000, and potentially up to $70,000, for each violation. An employer that repeatedly violates IOSHA may be fined up to $70,000 for each violation.
Indiana courts impose further obligations to provide a safe work environment by requiring employers to hire and train their employees properly. An employer that does not adequately hire, train or supervise its employees may be sued in court and held liable for damages if it knew or should have known an employee would subject a coworker, customer or third party to an unreasonable risk of harm.
When an employee suffers unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence in his or her workplace, the employer may seek a temporary restraining order or injunction on the employee’s behalf. The state law that allows these actions includes the following definitions:
Under this law, an employer may obtain a temporary restraining order by:
Employers will not be charged filing fees for a petition alleging that a person has:
A state law allows Indiana residents and some residents of other states to obtain a license to carry concealed pistols in the state. Employers in the state, however, may choose to prohibit anyone from carrying concealed pistols on business property or in the course of employment.
In general, employers may not prohibit an employee from lawfully storing a firearm or ammunition out of plain view in a locked vehicle on business property. There are exceptions to this for:
Any policy an employer adopts regarding firearms should be clearly and explicitly stated in the employer’s workplace violence prevention policy.
Employers should create a workplace violence plan to outline policies and processes that help prevent workplace violence. If an employer elects to have a workplace violence plan, the plan will be most effective if it is tailored to the individual needs and circumstances of the employer. It should take into account the resources available to enact and maintain the program.
A workplace violence policy may include the following items: