Workplace Violence Prevention

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. 

EMPLOYER’S OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE A SAFE 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: 

  • Their protections and obligations under IOSHA; 
  • The hazards of the workplace and suitable precautions; and
  • Relevant symptoms and emergency treatment for the hazards.

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:

  • Non-serious violations, including failures to post the required notice;
  • Serious violations, which include any violation that involves a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result (unless the employer did not know and could not have known of the violation); and
  • Failures to correct a violation within the permitted period (a fine will be assessed for each day during which a violation continues). 

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.

TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS OR INJUNCTIONS

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:

  • Unlawful violence” is any battery or stalking, but does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others.
  • A “credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose and that causes a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or for the safety of the person’s immediate family.

Under this law, an employer may obtain a temporary restraining order by:

  • Filing an affidavit that shows reasonable proof that an employee has suffered unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence; and
  • Demonstrating that great or irreparable harm has been or will be suffered by the employee.

Employers will not be charged filing fees for a petition alleging that a person has:

  • Inflicted or threatened violence against an employee;
  • Stalked an employee; or 
  • Spoken in a manner that has placed an employee in reasonable fear of violence.

INDIANA CONCEALED CARRY LAW

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: 

  • Schools, properties being used by a school for a school function and school buses;
  • Child caring institutions and child care centers;
  • Emergency shelter care child caring institutions;
  • Private secure facilities;
  • Group homes;
  • Emergency shelter care group homes;
  • Penal facilities;
  • Approved postsecondary educational institutions;
  • Domestic violence shelters;
  • A person's residence;
  • Property of a person who is subject to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards and is licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission;
  • Property owned by a public utility that generates and transmits electric power or by a department of public utilities; and
  • Individuals employed as direct support professionals who:
    • Assist individuals with developmental disabilities; and
    • Use their own personal vehicles while transporting individuals with developmental disabilities.

Any policy an employer adopts regarding firearms should be clearly and explicitly stated in the employer’s workplace violence prevention policy.

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PLAN IMPLEMENTATION FOR EMPLOYERS

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:

  • A statement of the employer’s workplace violence policy and its relation to other policies the employer has enacted;
  • Standard practices to address workplace violence or threats of violence;
  • Designation and training of an incident response team;
  • Clearly stated disciplinary procedures designed to prevent violent behavior in the workplace;
  • Procedures for workplace violence that will handle all levels of violence;
  • Reference to sources outside of the workplace that employees may consult to deal with workplace violence; and
  • An effective training program to inform employees of the workplace violence policy.

Contact Us

Indianapolis Office
7740 East 88th Street Suite 100
Indianapolis, Indiana 46256
Phone: (800) 395-2478
Greensburg Office
104 East 10th Street
Greensburg, Indiana 47240
Phone: (812) 663-3500
Since 1984, Witkemper Insurance and Financial Services have been providing insurance and financial service solutions for over 40 national insurance and financial service companies across the United States.
Greensburg Office
104 East 10th Street
Greensburg, Indiana 47240
Phone: (812) 663-3500
Toll Free: (800) 395-2478
Fax: (812) 663-3421
Indianapolis Office
7740 East 88th Street
Suite 100
Indianapolis, Indiana 46256
Toll Free: (800) 395-2478
Fax: (317) 288-7059
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