Workplace Violence: What You Need to Know

2017 has seen a rise in restaurant attacks, with both employees and guests being victimized

By Hugh Scott

In Southern California, a pizza restaurant employee sustained severe enough injuries during a robbery, to put him in a coma, a Taco Bell employee was attacked and stabbed while working the nightshift, and a doughnut shop employee fought with armed robbers in the early hours of morning, as he attempted to fend them off. In New York, a guest at a Texas Chicken & Burgers, was brutally assaulted by two criminals, just for offering to pay for their meal.

These incidents cause fear and concern not only for restaurant owners and employees, but also for the guests who frequent them.

Workplace violence is defined as an act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.

Per reports, nearly 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. It’s assumed that many cases go unreported.

While no industry is immune, certain occupations have a higher likelihood of being victimized by violence in the workplace. Restaurants and retail business employees fall into this category.

An employer guarantying 100% protection to their employees and patrons from violence is not a reasonable expectation, and while there is no federal law concerning a duty to prevent workplace violence, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers do have a duty to provide a safe working environment.

Employers need always be aware of the possibility of violence and should adopt certain safeguards.

Steps can be taken to reduce risk, such as conducting employee background checks, having a clear zero-tolerance policy in regards to violence, verbal abuse, and harassment, providing the means for reporting incidents, implementing employee training on what to do in those types of situations, and incorporating physical safety measures, such as separations (extra-wide counters, partition glass or walls) between the employees and patrons, and on-site surveillance, and/or security guards.

But even with established safety measures in place, restaurant and retail businesses are particularly vulnerable, as there is no crystal ball when it comes to knowing who will be walking through your door. This unknown factor contributes to the lack of controls available to reduce the risk of harm or injury, and many business owners find themselves and/or their employees susceptible to potential risk of injury, property loss, or both.

This is where insurance coverage plays a large part. Businesses can add an extra layer of protection for themselves and their employees with proper insurance coverage.

But it’s more than just having the coverage. Understanding how the polices apply, and when to implement them is key.

Workers’ compensation insurance is meant to reimburse your injured worker for his/her injuries and lost time from the job but do not submit the claim to your Health Insurance provider as it will typically be moved over to the workers’ compensation provider and could delay treatment, and/or claim resolution.

Note that Workers’ compensation is just one piece of the solution. Medical bills are paid as they incur, but in most states, workers’ compensation only pays 66% of the employee’s normal weekly wages.

However, the financial cost to victims of workplace violence can be staggering and the workers’ comp percentage may not cover all expenses. In a 2015 report, 52% of today’s workers have less than $1000 on hand to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Now more than ever, employers should be offering coverage to employees to help mitigate substantial out of pocket costs. Referred to as Voluntary Worksite Products, employers can offer Accident, Gap, Critical Illness, Disability and Life Insurance plans to employees, at no cost to the employer.

The concept of these products is to lessen the burden of increasing medical plan deductibles and out of pocket maximums employees face when injured, as well as provide income replacement and financial support for employees while out on leave of absence with a serious injury and/or medical condition.

Additionally, employees who understand these products and how they can be used are often less inclined to file fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claims, as they realize the benefit that will be provided to them.

Insurance is meant to protect your business, employees, and guests, so it’s important to know what is available, what your policy covers and which coverage to apply if/when an unfortunate event occurs. Consult with your Insurance Broker to fully understand your potential risks, liabilities, and how your coverage applies.

In some circumstances, there may be the added possibility of litigation due to Unsafe Workplace, or other such allegations. As laws vary from state to state, business owners should also consult with experienced legal counsel to make sure they are operating in compliance with regulations.

The aftermath of workplace violence is more than just the physical aspect. The emotional and financial toll can be debilitating. To safeguard your employees, customers, and business, and minimize potential lawsuits, be proactive in identifying possible threats, implementing safety measures and policies, conducting employee training, and having comprehensive insurance coverage in place.

 

 

Hugh Scott, Sr. Vice President, leads our North American Restaurant Program at Brown & Brown Insurance Services of CA, Inc., specializing in multi-state, multi-location franchised and non-franchise restaurant owners, currently insuring over 500 restaurants in 36 states and Canada.

Contact Hugh:  hscott@bbsocal.com or 714-221-1855 www.bbsocal.com