What You Need to Know if Physically Assaulted by a Colleague

Ideally, the workplace should be a safe space for all employees, regardless of one’s beliefs and identity. However, the ideal doesn’t always manifest since the office can be a breeding ground for tension. When workers feel like they are way above their heads and have problems with projects, disputes may arise, potentially leading to serious spats between colleagues.

If worse comes to worst, minor disagreements could result in full-blown altercations that might involve harassment and assault. And that’s not something to turn a blind eye to, as it has been found that physical assault is the second leading cause of death in the workplace.

Workplace assault poses serious repercussions to both the employee and the organization. The former may have to contend with physical injuries that may be livelihood-threatening, while the latter will have to face a backlash for its failure to protect workers from such an untoward incident. If a colleague has physically assaulted you, this guide will discuss everything you need to know.

A Better Look at Workplace Violence

Every year, an estimated 1.5 million cases of assault happen in the workplace. They make up 75% of acts of workplace violence. These staggering numbers paint a clear picture of the matter; it’s not one to ignore.

Even incidents of physical violence that don’t result in death or severe harm must be duly acknowledged, investigated, and resolved with utmost care for the victim because regardless of the severity of physical impact, these incidents may cause significant emotional and psychological harm. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20,870 workers experienced trauma from non-fatal violence at work.

As overwhelming as that number seems, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. After all, the sum of unreported incidents of workplace violence is staggering, too, at 25%. If you put this statistic alongside the 25% of employees who are aware of violent incidents in their workplace, you can surmise that this is a prevalent scenario that requires critical attention.

Here’s the clincher: one in seven employees doesn’t feel safe at work. That’s a lot if the total population of the labor force is considered. It follows that organizations must investigate this matter more closely and with the earnestness it demands.

It’s also worth pointing out that these incidents have financial repercussions on businesses. Every year, companies in the United States lose around $250–$330 billion due to workplace violence.

Assault and Battery Explained

Assault and battery are two different legal offenses. But often, they happen alongside each other. Think of battery as the expected, if avoidable, culmination of assault. It’s the act that results in physical harm, such as punching or kicking.

With assault, someone cusses another person or threatens them with overtly violent gestures, among other acts of harassment. If the victim felt like they were in danger of being on the receiving end of a physically violent attack, even if it did not happen, they were technically assaulted.

What to Do When You’ve Been Physically Assaulted in the Workplace

1.Seek safety

Get far away from the area where the incident happened immediately. Creating a safe distance between you and the assailant will eliminate the risk of them inflicting further harm on you or your staging revenge.

2. Get medical attention immediately

Chances are the rise of your adrenaline during the altercation has caused you to feel like you didn’t incur serious injuries. A full body assessment conducted by a physician will let you know the extent of physical harm done to you. So, visit a doctor as soon as your vitals are back to normal.

3. Report the incident to your manager

You might be tempted to chalk it up to experience, but that won’t help you or your organization. Doing so is akin to tolerating your assailant. They might do the same to someone else, thinking they can get away with it. Let your bosses know about the incident, construct a detailed incident report, and ensure something is done.

4. File a case with the relevant authorities

Your superiors might request to resolve the problem in-house. However, it’s best to file a report with the authorities because you’ll never know how the situation might pan out. 

5. Collect evidence

Request for access to CCTV recordings. Video evidence of the assault will be hard to refute. Take photos of your injuries, too, including bruises, scratches, and others. Talk to potential witnesses. Make sure their account of what happened supports yours.

6. Acquire legal assistance

Consult with a legal professional. If you can find one specializing in workplace harassment and physical assault, the better. Discuss your options with your lawyer. Be guided accordingly.

7. Keep a diary of symptoms 

As soon as your mind is clear, write how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Keep at it for as long as necessary, ideally, until you feel like your old self. This account might come in handy should a hearing involving the legal justice system be required to resolve the matter.

8. Submit a grievance, if necessary 

A grievance letter lets your employer know that you do not take the matter lightly. It is crucial if you know with certainty that the physical assault could have been prevented through preemptive information dissemination about existing risks.

9. Make sure your employer has filed a RIDDOR

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations is filed to the Health and Safety Executive after an employee does not show up at work for seven days due to an incident, such as workplace violence.

10. Demand better workplace safety policy against physical violence

This is the perfect time to make your voice heard, especially if you feel that your organization lacks a robust safety policy.

11. Demand more staff, if necessary 

Staff shortage is one of the likely triggers of workplace assault involving colleagues. Let your employer know that your team needs more people because everyone is overworked, which can turn the workplace into a breeding ground for hostility.

12. Record losses 

If you had to skip work without pay, record your losses. Document all the hospital and medication bills you had to pay, as well, as these can help you recoup monetary losses.

Stand Up Against Physical Assault

No worker deserves to be verbally threatened or physically assaulted in the workplace. Organizations must have a robust policy that clearly states their stance against those incidents. If physical assault in the workplace could be avoided altogether, the better. Unfortunately, looking at existing statistics regarding the matter, it’s safe to conclude that workplace assault does happen.

Now, should it happen to you, make sure to let those in charge know about the situation. Do not try to sweep the problem under the rug. Confront it head-on and let your harasser know that they cannot get away with workplace harassment and physical assault.

Should your employer refuse to have your back, feel free to consult with a workplace bullying lawyer from Shegerian and Associates.

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.