While you probably have rules in place that dictate civil behavior in your workplace, you may not have a clear plan for dealing with the aftermath of an actual violent confrontation. You should.
Advice: Investigate right away—before the end of the shift, if possible. Get everyone’s signed statement. Call the police if threats, harassment or violence occurred. Discipline those who clearly broke workplace rules, and document your decision. If you’re sued later, you will have co-worker statements and other evidence to back you up.
Recent case: Pilgrim’s Pride fired Tommy Perdue, who is black, following a physical altercation he had with a white co-worker. Supervisors investigated right away and got statements from four co-workers. All agreed that Perdue was the aggressor, and that he initiated the fight.
Perdue sued anyway, alleging that the co-worker threw the first punch. Plus, Perdue said others yelled racist comments during the confrontation.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case after reviewing Pilgrim’s Pride’s investigation records. Their thorough investigation, showed a legitimate reason for firing Perdue. (Perdue v. Pilgrim’s Pride, No. 06-15879, 11th Cir., 2007)