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Workers can’t claim self-defense as reason to ignore anti-violence rule

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in Firing,Human Resources

As part of your anti-violence policy, include a clearly worded ban on physical and verbal abuse in the workplace, even if it's in self-defense. Include descriptions of acceptable and unacceptable conduct.

Recent case: A fellow employee attacked Hector Escalante at work without provocation. Rather than fleeing the scene, Escalante defended himself by fighting back.

His employer fired Escalante for failing to back away from the confrontation. He sued, claiming wrongful termination in violation of public policy, saying he was fired for exercising his constitutionally and statutorily guaranteed right of self-defense.

A California appeals court sided with the company, saying it saw no problems with the employer's requirement that employees avoid physical conflict whenever possible. (Escalante v. Wilson's Art Studio, Inc., No. 109 Cal. App. 4th 692, 2003)

Final note: When violence does occur, don't jump to discipline right away. Before acting, thoroughly investigate any complaints or incidents. Use disciplinary suspensions when necessary to give you time to probe.

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