Who’s Responsible When Office Politics Turn Violent?

Office politics exist in some form in many organizations across the state of Iowa. Politics in the workplace allow individuals atop the office hierarchy to use this power for personal and professional gain by coercing others to bend to their will in exchange for a connection to power.

In some instances though, if workers at a lower place within the hierarchy attempt to remove themselves from this political structure, focusing on their work instead of professional gain, the person in power may resort to more aggressive forms of force to assert their dominance, which may even include violence. And if the violence occurs while at work, injured parties have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits to help them recover.

Can I get compensation of Violence in the Workplace?

Unfortunately, sometimes patients, clients and even coworkers are violent in the workplace and other employees can be injured.  If you are injured by the violence of a customer or client then your injuries should be covered under workers' compensation, unless the injuries occurred because of a personal problem you had with someone.  For example, if you have a personal issue with someone from outside of work and that person comes into where you work and assault you, then this may not be a covered work injury.

The other situation is when there is an altercation between you and another employee at work.  The same basic standards apply.  If you are an innocent bystander who did not have a personal problem with the other employee who assaulted you then generally this is covered under workers' compensation.  However, if you voluntarily engage in fighting at work this is generally not going to be considered work related. 

The injured worker has the burden to prove that their injuries arose out of an in the course of employment.  An injured worker is not allowed to recover from injuries that were caused by their own instigation or aggressive participation in fighting or even horseplay.  It is the burden of the injured worker to prove that there was no personal problem with the person who was violent to them.  If the injuries occurred because of a personal problem with another person, then it is the injured workers' burden to prove that they did not deviate from their employment. 

Workers’ Compensation Laws in Iowa

Like in every other state, employees in Iowa are covered under workers’ compensation laws that ensure they will receive compensation in the event of an injury or illness occurring while at work or while performing work-related duties. Section 85 of the Iowa Code provides specifically that workers can be compensated for “personal injury arising out of and in the course of the employment,” meaning that a worker doesn’t necessarily need to be injured in the office to receive compensation, but instead must only perform work-related activities.

Subsection 27 of the same code also provides that the employer has the responsibility of covering the costs of necessary treatments, whether they involve medical, surgical, dental, chiropractic or other similar services. Additionally, if a worker has become partially or totally disabled due to the violent action, whether for a duration of time or permanently, he or she  can also receive added benefits as a result.

Determining Responsibility for the Injuries

Any employees who are subject to violence at the workplace maintain the right to attempt to secure damages for their injuries. Before they can, however, according to the Iowa Workforce website, they must file a report of injury with the workers’ compensation commissioner and must agree to release medical information that documents the injury. It is also necessary for claimants to demonstrate that the injury was caused by a violent attack at the workplace and not due to an altercation between parties. If a fight or other type of altercation led to the injury of one party, then they may not be deemed eligible to recover.

With this, the injured employee will need to demonstrate that the attack occurred while at work or while performing work-related duties. An employee who was hurt by a supervisor or coworker off the job likely still can recover damages in a civil suit but not in the form of workers’ compensation benefits.

Contact a Workplace Violence Attorney in Des Moines

Everyone should feel safe while they are at their place of work. Unfortunately, though, some people may resort to violence in order to shape the politics in the office.

If you have received injuries in a violent attack at the workplace, it is important that you speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Des Moines. The lawyers at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help you determine liability and subsequently file a claim against the responsible parties. Call us today at 641-792-3595.

Corey Walker
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With over 22 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.