Workplace violence can cause serious physical and mental trauma to the victim. Though bruises and wounds heal quickly, the psychological impact is often the most painful and the most difficult to measure.
High levels of stress and increased workloads have been known to lead to violent confrontation in the workplace but such explanations do not make the behavior acceptable. If you feel that you have been a victim of workplace violence, it may be difficult to decide what steps you should take to remedy the situation.
Below are steps that should be taken by any person who is a victim of workplace violence or is exposed to mistreatment that can be defined as such. Keep in mind that these should be taken in addition to seeking medical help which should always be the first step in the process.
1. Contact your supervisor immediately
If you have been the victim of workplace violence and are under the impression that the incident does not reflect on the entire company or managerial staff, then you may choose to give the employer an opportunity to handle the case internally.
There are comprehensive guidelines that employers must follow to prevent or handle cases of workplace violence. If however you feel unsafe, that management is acting in a threatening or hostile manner, or the situation was not handled well at all, it is recommended that you contact law enforcement.
2. Call the police
When presenting a case to law enforcement it is absolutely important that you record as many details as you can. If you are a victim, be prepared to describe the time and date of the occurrences, who was involved, what caused it, and any witnesses that could have been present.
If your employer has ignored violent incidents in the past, then it would make sense to contact the police before the violence escalates even more. This will ensure you do not sustain any further mental or physical injury and the offender faces appropriate consequences. Law enforcement agencies are quick to respond to complaints about workplace violence and they may be able to help in removing the threat so you can continue with your job. Along with the police, speaking with an employment lawyer is also advisable before proceeding further.
3. Inform human resources (HR) department
For the sake of preventing the same cycle of violence, the human resources (HR) department should investigate the incident and dismiss the person or persons found responsible. If you do not bring the issue to the HR department’s attention, they are more than likely unaware that an issue even exists.
It is not uncommon for supervisors to engage in workplace violence or protect people who are perpetrators of workplace violence. In such cases, it is crucial that you go to HR as this will effectively take the situation out of an offending manager’s hands and give the responsibility to a third, impartial party who is capable of instilling significant change.
4. File your case with the Ministry of Labour
The Ministry of Labour enforces the Ontario Health & Safety Act (OHSA) that guarantees employee safety rights. If you have been the victim of workplace violence, the Ministry of Labour should be contacted as soon as possible. Employers are required by law to provide a safe working environment and any evidence of violence reveals a failure on the employer’s part. This can ultimately lead to fines and penalties.
The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against a worker for exercising their right to report violence in the workplace. Therefore, after you report your case to the Ministry, be aware of any actions taken by the employer such as threats, hostility, breaches of contracts, or demotions.
Employers are usually required to offer mandatory preventative programs to enlighten employees on workplace-related violence and how to prevent such occurrences. In general, it is compulsory for the employer to offer a safe, friendly environment for their employees and to emphasize that inappropriate behavior that can be construed as workplace violence will not be tolerated.
These programs not taking place is another reason to consider contacting the Ministry of Labour as a poisoned work environment rife with harassment and violence will most likely be the end result.