Preventing Violence in the Workplace: Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

Several personal work items such as a mouse and keyboard, a notebook, and glasses are arranged neatly on a desk.

Preventing violence in the workplace involves recognizing situations that could potentially lead to violence and taking steps to prevent violent incidents. A safe work environment is everyone’s responsibility. Employees should be trained on how to recognize an unsafe situation relating to co-workers; employers need to stress that workplace violence is not “part of the job,” and no one has to “put up with it,”; and employees should alert management to co-workers who are verbally or physically threatening other workers.
Prior to a violent act, there are almost always red flags. After a violent workplace incident, people almost invariably say “there were warning signs,” or “we should have known.” Employees and employers should be aware of these red flags, and report them before an act of violence takes place:

  • Prior history of violent behavior.
  • Making threats, either verbal or physical.
  • Unexplained mood changes.
  • Screaming, yelling, or making a fist.
  • Expressing homicidal or suicidal thoughts.
  • Holding a grudge against a supervisor or co-workers.
  • Blaming all things that go wrong on a co-worker, supervisors, or management.
  • Expressing a feeling of loss of control within his or her life.
  • A history of domestic abuse.
  • Obsession with weapons or carrying a weapon in the workplace.
  • Isolation from co-workers.
  • Paranoid behavior or verbalizations reflecting paranoid thoughts.
  • Unwanted romantic interest in a co-worker.
  • Abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs.
  • Use of alcohol or illicit drugs at work.
  • Extreme financial or extreme family problems.

Employees who observe any of these red flags should be encouraged to report them to their immediate supervisor. Employers need to have a process in place to document employee concerns, and to take measures, if appropriate, to protect employee safety.

Workplace violence is not always the result of violent actions of another co-worker. People who work with the general public, such as convenience store cashiers, may be subject to violence from outsiders. Terroristic acts by disgruntled former employees or disgruntled customers can also be the cause of workplace violence. Unfortunately, domestic violence situations can spill over into the workplace, as well.

Employers need to have to have a policy in place addressing how to deal with violent situations from customers or non-workers. Employers should also be cooperative in enforcing no contact orders, and have procedures in place to prevent non-employees from gaining access to the workplace.

Unfortunately, despite good policies and procedures, workplace violence does happen, and will continue to happen. If a worker suffers injuries as the result of workplace violence, in many cases, that worker is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

In Minnesota, work injuries that are the result of workplace violence are separated into three separate categories. Injuries which fall into two of the three categories are covered under workers’ compensation, but injuries which fall into the third category are not covered by workers’ compensation. This is known as the Hanson analysis, named after the case of Hanson v. Robitshek Schneider Co., 297 N.W. 19 (1941).

  1. First, injuries that are the result of workplace violence where the provocation or motivation behind the assault arises solely out of the activity of the victim as an employee, are covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation.
  2. Second, injuries which are the result of workplace violence where the assailant was motivated by personal animosity towards the victim arising from circumstances completely unconnected with the employment. These injuries are not covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation.
  3. Third, injuries that are the result of workplace violence directed at the victim due to a combination of personal non-work related reasons, and work-related reasons are covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation. Cases where the assailant’s motivation is unknown are usually covered under workers’ compensation.

Most injuries caused by workplace violence fall into the third category – the assailant was motivated by a combination of workplace factors and non-workplace factors, and they are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation. That being said, many workers’ compensation insurers will deny injury claims involving assaults or violence, arguing that the incident was non-work related. Just because the workers’ compensation insurance company says your case is not covered, does not mean they are right!

We’ve represented a wide variety of Minnesota workers who suffered injuries as a result of workplace violence, including a woman who was sexually assaulted by a supervisor, a security guard who was assaulted by a trespasser, a convenience store cashier who was assaulted by a customer, an individual who was hit on the head by a co-worker, several police officers who were assaulted by suspects, corrections officers who were assaulted by inmates, and home health care workers who were assaulted by clients.

If you’ve sustained injuries as a result of violence in your workplace, an experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you get the benefits you’re entitled to, and navigate the Minnesota workers’ compensation system. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call Meuser Law Office, P.A. at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a time to speak with one of our attorneys.