Subordinate's assault on supervisor falls within workers' comp arena
Case name: Garrow v. Norcross Safety Products, LLC, No. 08-4066 (C.D. Ill. 05/24/10).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois dismissed an employee's negligent hiring action against his employer. The exclusivity provision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act barred the employee's suit.
What it means: The WCA provides the exclusive remedy for most workplace assaults, except where the employer "has committed, commanded, or expressly authorized an assault against an employee."
A supervisor at a manufacturing plant approached one of his employees about talking too much and distracting other employees. The employee later attacked the supervisor in a break room at work. The supervisor was treated at the hospital and workers' compensation covered the medical bills associated with the assault. He then sued the employer for negligently hiring and retaining the employee and other claims. The District Court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, finding that the workers' compensation system provided the sole remedy for the supervisor's injuries.
The supervisor argued that the employer had sufficient knowledge of the employee's violent propensity and failed to properly train its employees regarding workplace violence. As a result, the employee became an alter ego of the employer, which permitted the supervisor to pursue his personal injury suit.
The court pointed out that the supervisor conceded that before the day of the assault, he believed he had a good working relationship with the employee, and neither he nor another supervisor was aware of the employee making any threatening statements. Based on these statements, the court concluded that the incident qualified as an accident under the WCA.
The court also rejected the supervisor's argument that the employer effectively condoned or authorized the attack by failing to protect employees from workplace violence and not providing adequate training. Given that the employer removed the employee from the workplace and terminated his employment within one hour of the assault, the court found that the employer did not engage in intentional wrongdoing.
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August 9, 2010
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