Reporting workplace threats to HR or police is protected

It’s a violent world we live in—and work in. Each year, an estimated 1.7 million workers nationwide fall victim to non-fatal crimes at work. California employers need to take the creation of violence-free workplaces seriously—or risk finding themselves in double-trouble.

First, employers who don’t act reasonably to prevent workplace violence violate the California Labor Code, which requires employers to provide “a place of employment which is safe and healthful.”

Second, employers who punish employees who reports threats or other workplace dangers can be sued for wrongful termination.

Recent case: Calvin Franklin worked for The Monadnock Company when, he claimed, a co-worker threatened him and several co-workers with death. Franklin was selected as the point man to complain to HR. He did, and the company allegedly ignored him.

Shortly thereafter, the employee in question allegedly tried to stab Franklin with a screwdriver. This time, he went to the police to complain. Then the company fired him.

Difficult People D

Franklin sued, alleging wrongful termination for reporting workplace threats to HR and the police. The company argued Franklin was an at-will employee who could be fired for any reason or no reason, and that there was no such thing as a wrongful termination lawsuit for reporting workplace threats.

But the California Court of Appeal ruled otherwise. Citing growing workplace violence and the Labor Code’s requirement that employers provide a safe work environment, the court concluded that it is against public
policy to fire employees for reporting workplace threats to the company or the police. (Franklin v. The Monadnock Company, No. B191267, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, 2007)