Employees who complain about workplace safety and then are fired can successfully sue to get their jobs back, along with back pay and benefits. But is an unlanded punch from a co-worker enough to make a workplace unsafe?
A federal court ruled recently in such a workplace violence case. Here’s what happened:
Cesar Ferrer sued his former employer, T.L. Cannon Management Corp., claiming he was fired for complaining about his perceived lack of safety in the workplace.
Ferrer says he was fired after telling his manager that a co-worker threw a punch at him and missed, and that the co-worker assaulted another employee about a year earlier.
Connecticut law provides grounds for a wrongful discharge claim when an employee is fired for refusing to work in conditions posing an “objectively substantial risk of death, disease or serious bodily injury.”
The company argued that Ferrer didn’t meet that standard in his claim.
While the court said the danger posed to an employee by an unstable co-worker may be sufficiently serious in exceptional cases to satisfy the objective standard, Ferrer didn’t satisfy the standard.
The court said Ferrer must show more than this, such as that his co-worker had a known propensity for violence and specifically threatened him with serious bodily harm.
So the federal court dismissed Ferrer’s claim, but it did give him 21 days to file an amended complaint. No word from his lawyer on what he plans to do.
What is an employer’s responsibility to its employees when it comes to potentially violent co-workers? Let us know in the Comments Box below.