By Matthew Nelson July 6, 2010
In the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression and with unemployment hovering around 10 percent, workplace violence may escalate, management attorney Matthew Nelson of Dinsmore & Shohl says in this BNA Insights article. Nelson discusses trends in workplace violence, government agency responses, and the possibility of employer liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior and theories such as negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. He emphasizes employer awareness of employee behavior and offers guidance on policies to limit liability.
Roughly 15 years ago, the federal Centers for Disease Control declared workplace violence a “serious public health problem.” Since then, several federal agencies have attempted to either define or track workplace violence, and countless articles have been written about the topic. In recent years, almost certainly as a result of greater prevention efforts on the part of employers, incidents of workplace violence–in particular, workplace homicides–have trended downward. Nonetheless, in the midst of what is generally considered the worst economy since the Great Depression, and with unemployment hovering at just under 10 percent, it is quite possible that the downward trend will be reversed, or at the very least, arrested. Employers should review and update their workplace violence policies and procedures. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.