New California Case: Prevent Workplace Violence

Plaintiff Franklin alleged that a coworker in the workplace had threatened to have three other employees and him killed, that defendants did nothing in response to his complaint to them about the threats, that the coworker thereafter assaulted him with a screwdriver, that plaintiff reported the assault to the police, and that plaintiff was terminated from his employment as a result of his complaints to defendants and the police.

In Franklin v. The Monadnock Company, the Court of Appeal held that these allegations were sufficient to support a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The public policy? The employer's duty to provide a safe workplace.

This case will support employers' arguments that there should be little to no tolerance for violent threats or conduct. Therefore, there should not be a duty to provide a "reasonable accommodation" for violent misconduct. However, employers face some mixed signals on that point.

The best way to prevent a claim for workplace violence is training supervisors to detect and respond to workplace violence symptoms, and take them seriously, and for HR managers to learn how to conduct investigations. It also helps to better understand the obligation to accommodate those employees with bona fide disabiliies that may suggest violent tendencies.