Workplace violence is never acceptable, no matter what the provocation. Any form of violence in the workplace can be tremendously disruptive, creating a hostile environment that affects every worker’s morale and confidence, and ultimately their productivity. In addition to all of the above, workplace violence is also illegal.
Unfortunately, because no one really expects to be assaulted in their place of work, more so by a colleague, most victims are not sure what to do next. Knowing what to do if a colleague assaults you at work is important. It will help you get the medical and legal help you need as soon as possible.
Understanding Assault In The Workplace
Assault in the workplace is not limited to being physically assaulted. You may be a victim of abuse if a colleague threatens or abuses you verbally. Workplace assaults may take the form of physical, mental, or sexual abuse.
Types Of Physical Assault At Work
- Slapping, punching, biting or scratching.
- Throwing an object at a colleague.
- Spitting on another person.
- Pulling someone’s hair.
- Assault with a weapon.
Types Of Verbal Assault At Work
- Calling a colleague derogatory names while alluding to their gender, race or sexuality.
- Making a veiled or direct verbal threat, which may be a threat of violence or their family.
- Threatening to demote or sack a worker for unjustifiable reasons such as when they voice a complaint or air a grievance.
- Spreading false rumours about another worker.
Types Of Sexual Abuse Assault At Work
- Exposing a colleague to sexual material in the form of text, images or videos.
- Finding excuses to touch a colleague while working together.
- Making sexual comments towards a colleague or about another colleague.
- Soliciting sexual favours from a worker or pressuring them to go on a date or night out often in exchange for something and threatening their career if they refuse.
- Exposing sex organs.
If you’ve suffered sexual abuse by a colleague at work you may like to read our page on sexual abuse compensation claims.
Consequences Of Being Assaulted By A Colleague At Work
Being assaulted by a colleague at work has far-reaching consequences that go beyond the visible injuries. In most cases, our first reaction is to assess the physical injuries only because they are visible. However, being verbally, emotionally or sexually abused by a work colleague can be no less damaging.
Anyone who has been assaulted in the workplace is can suffer from significant psychological distress. This is irrespective of the type of assault they have experienced and whether it happened in full view of the other workers or behind closed doors. Any form of assault in the workplace is often accompanied by deep humiliation and embarrassment along with a sense of dread at the thought of going to work the next day, knowing that meeting their assaulter would be unavoidable.
For a victim of workplace violence, the thought of meeting their tormentor every day can be particularly devastating. It can destroy their peace of mind and increase their stress and anxiety levels. If there is no intervention and the assaults continue unchecked, it can result in debilitation panic attacks and other long-term health problems.
What Can I Do If A Colleague Assaulted Me At Work?
The first thing you will need to do after being assaulted at work will depend on the nature of the assault.
If a colleague assaults you physically, assessing your injuries should be your topmost priority. Your wellbeing comes above all else. If you are badly injured you must seek medical attention. Ask the medical professional who treats you to provide a detailed report describing the extent of your injuries and the recommended treatment protocol.
Immediately after any assault, regardless of the type of assault, make sure to put some distance between your attacker and yourself. Maintaining some distance helps to defuse the situation and also protects you from being attacked again.
Inform your supervisor or manager about the incident as soon as you get a chance. Don’t stop at a verbal notification. Create a written record by writing a detailed account of the incident in the log book, which should be kept in the HR office or the supervisor’s office. Make sure to get the entry signed by the supervisor and keep a copy for yourself so nobody can alter any details or otherwise tamper with the report.
Request anybody else who witnessed the assault to give you a signed witness statement. You may need it if you decide to file legal proceedings against your assaulter. Get the contact details of all those who witnessed the assault, if possible. If the assault happened out of view of other workers, tell a trusted colleague what happened. Someone who is not directly connected to the incident is likely to be more objective and help you make the right decisions at a time when you’re emotionally upset.
When you get home from work, take time to write down a detailed record of the assault, including the circumstances that led to the incident and what happened next. Do this while everything is still fresh in your mind and do not leave out any detail. If you decide to proceed with a personal injury claim for assault at work, your solicitor will be able to use your notes to build a strong case. If you wait too long to write down these details, you are more likely to overlook some seemingly small details that could make a difference.
Last but not least, get in touch with a personal injury solicitor to explore your legal rights. Most personal injury solicitors offer assault victims a free consultation during which they’ll hear you out, examine the evidence, and let you know what your next steps should be.
Your workplace is your sanctuary away from home. It’s not a place where you should be scared of being assaulted. In case of an assault, it helps to know what to do next to ensure your safety and get the medical and legal help you need as quickly as possible.