I was threatened at work and want to know if there’s anything I can do legally against my company since they gave the guy his job back on my shift?

I’m a supervisor and recently there was an incident at work involving me and a dock (union) worker. He took a longer break than allotted and I asked him what took him so long. he got mouthy but I was busy so I let it go. Soon after, he yelled at me from across the dock, “If I ever see you on the street, I’m will kill you”. Two others heard this threat and he was terminated on the spot and asked to leave the premises. The police were called and found a warrant for his arrest for gun charges. He got his job back with 1 week of suspension. Is there anything I can do legally against my company?

Asked on July 30, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to consult with an employment lawyer; this is a complex case. Ordinarily, IF there was no union agreement, it would be simple: company's can be liable for hiring or retaining workers who are known or are suspected to be dangerous to others, and you'd therefore potentially have grounds for a legal action--at least for damages if you were injured by this person at any point.

However, the union contract greatly complicates matters. Depending on the terms of the contract, the company may not be allowed to fire a union worker except for certain defined reasons AND when the termination is done in accordance with union grievance policy, which can require multiple steps and warnings. If they fired him in violation of the union agreement, they may have had to rehire him. This happened to a  case that a colleague of mine worked on--employee A tried to murder employee B with an ice pick and was fired on the spot. He successfully sued to be rehired because his termination was not in accordance with the discripline policy set out in the union contract.

So the union agreement complicates matters greatly, and you need to consult with an attorney who can evaluate the situation, including potentially the contractual terms, in detail. Good luck.

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