The slaying of a local reporter and cameraman on live television in Roanoke, Virginia has raised numerous questions about workplace violence and the ways in which companies strive to keep workers safe.
According to authorities, the 24-year-old reporter and her 27-year-old photographer were gunned down by a former coworker whose employment had been terminated almost two years earlier. The local official they were interviewing was also shot, but is expected to recover. The gunman fled the scene, later crashed his vehicle and then took his own life, police say.
Although the shooting shocked the nation – and those closest to the victims – it seems the gunman had been stewing about his “treatment” by co-workers and supervisors leading up to this termination. He had even filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, but that was ultimately dismissed. His firing was contentious, and police had to be called to escort him out of the building.
Station managers believed that with him no longer employed, he was no longer a potential threat. This turned out not to be true.
Workplace violence is one of the leading causes of death and injury to workers in the U.S. – especially women.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of nearly 4,600 workplace deaths in 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available), 9 percent were the result of homicides. In terms of gender, 8 percent of male worker deaths were caused by homicide. Meanwhile, murder is the cause of 21 percent of all workplace deaths for women.
It’s true there are a lot more men who die of workplace deaths overall – 341 men to 67 women in 2013 – but more women die as a result of violence.
Risk factors include:
- Routine face-to-face contact with the public
- Exchange of money
- Delivery of goods or services
The reason the rate is so much higher for women often has to do with domestic violence. Both men and women die at the hands of robbers, and both suffer the same rates of homicide by coworkers. However, more than a third of women are slain at work by a boyfriend, spouse, an ex or some other relative. For men, that’s almost a non-issue.
This type of violence is perhaps the most difficult for companies to prevent, but they have a duty to try, especially when they are aware of a potential threat.
When a worker is injured on the job due to violence, workers’ compensation is usually the only recourse. Third party claims against the individual attacker may be possible, but insurance policies usually don’t cover intentional acts of wrongdoing, so victims would be stuck pursuing the offender’s personal assets. That is often a lost cause. So to determine whether an injury resulting from a violent act is compensable, the victim(s) must seek prompt legal representation from an experienced law firm.
Usually, there is a question of whether the act “arose out of” or “occurred in the course of” employment. So attacks that were motivated against the employee personally may not be compensable (i.e., a domestic violence situation) but those that were motivated out of anger against the company or the worker as part of that company probably would be compensable.
Each case has to be weighed on an individual basis, so it’s important for those affected to seek legal counsel before deciding how best to proceed.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.