Understanding Workplace Violence After Plant City Shooting

Even amid the recent tragedies that have plagued our state, from Pulse to Parkland, many Floridians likely still find themselves in the “it will never happen to me” mindset.  The workplace is one area where this mindset is particularly strong, as workers feel assured by their familiarity with their surroundings, coworkers, and everyday customers, clients, and passersby. But as a fatal incident this week at a Plant City business proves, violence can strike anywhere—even in the workplace.

According to Bay News 9, the incident occurred on Monday afternoon at Bliss Enterprises in Hillsborough County. While Bliss Enterprises is a construction company, the company’s land is also home to several rental units. Due to an ongoing dispute, one of the tenants was asked to leave the property, the spark for the violence confrontation. The tenant, along with a companion, approached the office of owner Richard Bliss, and when the argument over the rental unit escalated, Bliss fatally shot the tenant, as well as seriously wounded the companion. Another person, who had been waiting outside, then entered the office and killed Bliss.

While the details of this incident are under investigation, it, along with last year’s deadly shooting at an Orlando warehouse, raises one frightening question: could something like this happen at my own office?

Defining Workplace Violence

While accidents and injuries happen fairly regularly in workplaces, workplace violence is generally not the cause. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of the 4,675 workplace deaths that occurred in 2014, only 403 were homicides.

However, workplace violence is not limited to homicides. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is:

“any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at a worksite.”

By this definition, workplace violence includes:

  • A worker making unwanted sexual advances on another
  • One worker verbally harassing another about their religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality
  • A worker shoving or punching another coworker
  • An irate customer hitting a worker

It’s important to note that a threat, even if not acted upon, still constitutes workplace violence. A threat can still result in fear, anxiety, or stress, which is a distraction during the workday. A threat of sexual harassment, for example, may seem less severe than an actual shooting. Still, it is still very much a case of workplace violence.

Compensation for Workplace Violence

For an act of workplace violence to be compensable under workers’ compensation, the violence must be work-related. For example, the retail worker punched by a customer could likely claim compensation for their injuries. On the other hand, if a worker’s ex-boyfriend comes to her place of employment and assaults her, it might not fall under workers’ compensation.

Violent incidents like Florida workplace shootings, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which killed teachers in their workplace, and the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, which killed employees at an office party, force us to confront some of our worst fears. No one can expect violence in their workplace.  No one should ever have to, but for the victims of this recent attack, it has become a horrifying reality.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

 

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