If I get attacked at work, is my employer liable?

The title pretty much says it, really. If I’m attacked at work, say someone kidnaps me while I’m walking a dog alone at night or someone breaks in and shoots me to get into the controlled substances cabinet, would my employer be liable for any losses I suffer?

There’s been an intermittent issue with people loitering around the clinic property since I started there. Things have been much worse since a bar opened across the street. Cars have been vandalized and broken into. We’ve found people lurking in our bushes around twilight. The other night a carload of men were sitting in our back parking lot, and they peeled out when a male employee pulled in and parked next to them. This makes a lot of the emergency staff very nervous, since we’re almost all women, and we have a lot of money and controlled drugs in the building, and we have to walk dogs late at night.

There is no security camera on the back door or the dog walking area. Hell, there’s not even adequate lighting on the dog walk area. We don’t have a panic button, or a canister of mace, or a stun gun, or anything else to summon help or protect ourselves with. (There’s an under-the-counter alarm button at the front desk, but that’s it.) We use the buddy system after dark when we can, but we’re often too busy/understaffed for that to be feasible. We’ve mentioned all these concerns to the clinic owner, and he’s talking about buying us a set of walkie-talkies to carry with us on walks.

Legally speaking, does this constitute an unsafe work environment? If something happened to one of us, would the clinic be liable for medical bills, lost wages, or even wrongful death?

You never said, but I’m hoping you work at a veterinary clinic. I can’t imagine what other place would have money, controlled substances, and required employees to walk dogs. If it’s a convenience store, you’ve got a really weird boss.

Have you tried calling the police? Call 311 to let them know of loitering or other undesirable behavior. Even with a bar across the street, you have the right to feel secure while walking a dog. Have you contacted the bar-owner about any of this? He surely can’t be building any goodwill in the community if his patrons are tearing up the neighborhood. Perhaps his security goons can help y’all out.

Good luck.

As long as you were clocked in when an incident occured, you’d be covered under Worker’s Comp.
If you wanted to prove negligence on the part of your employer, you better start documenting every time someone talks to him about this concern, and what he does about it.

I also vote for calling the cops when loiterers are about. That way, you won’t have to find out about worker’s comp in the first place. :slight_smile:

Seriously, the cops are not just for immediate life-threatening emergencies. Lots of crap could be solved if people called them when they should.

Here’s another vote for calling the cops every time there’s a problem. For one thing, if people are coming out of the bar drunk and causing problems, they might be able to cite the bar owner. Also, there might be some relatively low-cost things you could do for yourselves. How hard would it be to put a gate across the entrance to your parking lot, to keep strangers out? Put a buzzer-lock on your front door, so nobody gets in until you let them in. Get a drop-safe for your cash, and put a sign on your door that “employees do not have access…” And do you really have to walk the dogs late at night? Maybe you could walk them during the day for exercise, and just take them to a smaller safer area to do their business at night. Also, security cameras have gotten really cheap. You could probably cover critical areas for a couple hundred bucks. Better lighting probably wouldn’t cost much either. And the employees themselves could spend a little money on pepper spray and personal alarms, which women should probably carry most of the time anyway, unfortunately.




(I’m not promoting these guys, but you could get some ideas about what’s available in the marketplace.)

We’ve called the police about the bar patrons, multiple times. They’ve quit parking in our lot and pissing on our clients’ tires, but that’s really about all it’s accomplished. And it doesn’t really do us a lot of good to call and report that there was a man in the bushes between our property and a public cemetary, but now he’s gone, or that some people were parked in our lot but have driven away, you know?

We can’t keep the parking lot barred off, because we’re an emergency clinic and clients kind of need to be able to get in. There’s already a buzzer-lock on the front door. We have to have the cash box available to make change for customers paying in cash. There’s never very much money in it, but probably enough to tempt the sort of people who would break into your car and steal your battery. And yes, we have to walk the dogs late at night. Most of them are on IV fluids, and they cannot reasonably be expected to hold it for more than 6 hours or so, so we walk them around midnight and again around 6 am.

The biggest issues, as I see them, are the lack of lighting (they got a big floodlight for that area and the dimbulb installers put it in backward, so the parking lot is doubly bright), the lack of cameras for the parking lots (they planned to get one, but it never quite panned out for some reason), foliage surrounding the walk area and parking lot, and the fact that we either have to leave the back door open while we’re out, or be locked out and have no escape route should something happen. (Not to mention it being a right pain in the arse, having to juggle keys and leashes and slings to get back in after every walk.)

I’m not particularly worried, but I think it is something that needs to be addressed a bit more aggressively than it has been so far. I was just thinking that the clinic owner ought to concerned about potential liability, if nothing else, and got to wondering if he even was liable if something happened because he failed to take safety precautions.

Have you voiced your concerns to your boss? Does (s)he realize you and other employees might leave over the issue? Speaking as an owner of a veterinary practice, I have insurance that would cover me if an employee were attacked/etc but I would be unhappy to lose a valued employee.

Personally, one of the things I have done my entire career is to not charge cops a cent. I tell them this is to thank them for doing a thankless job, but in reality this is just cynical old me looking for extra watchfullness. And it pays off. I am in a rural environment, much different than yours. But I know that if we call the cops they respond big time. And if an off duty cop is driving by and sees something “suspicious” I get a call from him.

Oh, and I have gotten off the 4 or 6 times I have been pulled over for speeding. Typically the officer says something along the lines of, “Oh sorry doc, you must be on your way to see an emergency”.