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Violent reaction from boss may trigger retaliation lawsuit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

If workers want to bring retaliation lawsuits against their employers, they must prove they suffered an "adverse employment action," such as being fired, threatened or denied a promotion. But a court could also consider a supervisor's physical violence as a form of retaliation.

The lesson: Here's even more reason to reiterate your anti-violence policy to employees. For more advice, access our free E-visory report, Violence and Weapons at Work: How to Develop Policy and Procedures, at www.you-and-the-law.com/extra.

Recent case: A 19-year-old pizza-shop worker told management that his supervisor had sex with a subordinate. When the supervisor found out, he angrily summoned the "snitch" to the store, then punched the employee in the chest. The employee collapsed and died from the blow.

The worker's estate sued the company, alleging retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment. While a lower court rejected the lawsuit, the Iowa Supreme Court reinstated the retaliation claim, saying the supervisor's punch may be considered an adverse employment action. (Estate of Harris v. Papa John's Pizza, No. 43/03-0201, SC Iowa, 2004)

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