Workplace friction often leads to subsequent disputes. On rare occasions, violence breaks out — and when it does, you have rights. We all have the right to feel safe at work. State and federal laws make this guarantee. What should you do after you were attacked by a co-worker while on the job? You can speak to your boss about terminating the fellow employee, file a report with the police, build a lawsuit, ask for worker’s compensation, or all of the above.
First, you should do simple research to determine what type of violence your co-worker might be convicted of if you go to the police. For example, “assault” in your state might refer to an actual attack or it might only refer to your perception of a threat. “Battery” is usually defined as unwanted physical contact. When you put assault and battery together, they usually equate to violence. Chances are your co-worker could be arrested and charged with assault and battery, or felony assault. If a weapon was used, the charges could be even more severe.
Depending on the extent of the violence, whether or not the perpetrator has ever been arrested before, and whether or not the perpetrator gave the arresting officers any trouble, the person who committed the crime might be released immediately.
This individual might require a felony defense lawyer. It’s important to know that you could be sentencing this person to financial distress for a lengthy period of time before a judge decides punishment. Were you friends? Your opinion on how the person should be punished will likely be taken into consideration by a prosecutor, but keep in mind the decision ultimately belongs to the district attorney once an arrest has been made. This isn’t a movie. Don’t assume you can “drop the charges” later, because that probably won’t be possible.
It’s also important to know that once an arrest is made, incarceration makes it much more difficult for you to receive any restitution awarded by a judge. Restitution is like a lawsuit in criminal court. Can your co-worker afford to pay if imprisoned? Probably not. Most victims of a crime don’t receive much restitution for years after the crime was committed, regardless of court judgements made in their favor.
Incarceration can also make it more difficult for you and a personal injury attorney to sue in civil court. What’s the bottom line? If this person isn’t a danger to you or anyone else in the future — but someone you might want to sue for damages related to your injuries — then you might want to avoid the police and simply build your own case in civil court.
Either way, your employer will likely want to terminate this individual for violence in the workplace. This is both a safety precaution for you and your fellow employees, and a mitigating measure to reduce the chance of a lawsuit. If you were injured during the attack, ask for worker’s compensation.
Worker’s compensation will help you pay for those injuries in the short-term, while a lawsuit can help you pay for pain and suffering you experience in the long-term.