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Workplace violence is not restricted to physical assault

Studies indicate that violence in any workplace is a matter of significant concern across Canada, including British Columbia. Many employers and employees associate  violence with physical assault, but it includes other acts such as threats, abuse and intimidation. Establishing an accurate number of workers affected is not easy because many cases go unreported.

Threatening acts like the destruction of property, shaking fists and throwing objects are also included in workplace violence, as well as insults, swearing or other forms of verbal abuse from both workers and other individuals in the workplace. Some workers may use written threats to intimidate colleagues. Harassment such as bullying, intimidation, humiliation, threatening gestures, causing embarrassment and annoying other workers are often cited in reports about workplace violence.

Attacks could include pushing, shoving, hitting and kicking, and even acts like vandalism, theft, sabotage, arson, rape and murder. In some cases, incidents occur at venues adjacent to the workplace, like at conferences or exhibitions. Violence could happen in any work environment, with the prevalence higher in some professions. They include teachers, retail workers, municipal housing, social services, health care and correctional officers.

What are my options to seek relief?

Victims of workplace violence should report it to the company’s human resources department immediately. Keeping a detailed written record of such incidents is a good idea, and it should also include any witnesses’ names who could corroborate the written report. Regardless of whether the workplace has an anti-violence policy, employees have rights under employment law.

Laws to prevent discrimination and harassment could cover workplace violence. Employers must take the necessary steps to avoid them and act upon any reported cases promptly. Going to work does not mean you should have to endure such treatment. If there is no resolution after reporting the incident, legal counsel could assess the circumstances and provide the necessary support and guidance.

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