Workplace violence is the violence or threat of violence against workers. It can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was designed to prevent workers from being killed, or seriously harmed at work. Because workplace violence is one of the leading causes of fatal workplace injuries, it should not be taken lightly. Although there are currently no specific standards for workplace violence, under the General Duty Clause of the Act, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” The courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is possible way to reduce or eliminate the hazard.
The OSHA Act protects workers who complain to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace or environmental problems. You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you used any right given to you under the OSHA Act. This constitutes retaliation and and is prohibited by the State of California. Those who get retaliated against for complaining to OSHA or other governmental agency also have protections under the “whistleblower” statute. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistle-blower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety. Due to important time limitations and to ensure required procedures are being followed properly, it is recommended that anyone who has been retaliated against for complaining about workplace safety and/or violence consult with an employment attorney first to discuss the various rights and remedies that are available. If the perceived threat or danger is imminent, do not hesitate to call the police.