An employer’s obligation to prevent workplace violence

Alberta employers are required to provide their employees with a violence-free workplace. Admittedly, it can be difficult to know when a particular person could commit a violent act against an employee. Even so, understanding what constitutes violence and certain situations in which it may occur, an employer can help prevent it from happening within the company.

Obviously, physical attacks and sexual assault against an employee constitute violence. Other forms of violence are not quite as obvious to some employers. For instance, written and/or verbal threats should be considered violence. Any threatening behavior that does not necessarily result in a physical attack is still violent. Finally, if a domestic violence incident occurs in on a work site, it constitutes workplace violence.

Anytime an employee fears that he or she could suffer physical harm due to the actions of another employee, superior or third party while at work, an employer may want to treat it as an act of violence. Company policies can include procedures similar to those for harassment, which can turn to violence. Once a complaint is made, an investigation should be conducted. Depending on the information gathered, further steps can be taken to satisfactorily resolve the matter.

Primarily, an Alberta company’s employee handbook ought to include a section on the prevention, prohibition and investigation of acts of workplace violence. If an incident occurs, those responsible for the investigation of it need to take it seriously. If employers have questions or concerns regarding protecting their employees and their companies, it would make sense to take steps to ensure that they take reasonable actions to ensure the safety of their employees, which may require the assistance of a lawyer experienced in this area.

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