If I was fired for defending myself from an assault by a co-worker but the co-worker was not fired, can I sue my former employer and that co-worker?

Asked on January 25, 2013 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You have a couple of potential claims, depending on some additional details.

The first obvious claim is for unemployment benefits.  It's going to be hard for the employer to argue that fighting is grounds for termination/cause when they allowed the aggressor to remain employed.

The second claim is under the workers comp act if you suffered any injuries as a result of the fight.  If this was an assault at work or very close to work, any injuries you received should be covered as work-related, even though inflicted by a co-worker.

Both of these remedies require you to use the appropriate administrative agency.

A third option is to file a lawsuit against your employer and the co-worker for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  This is not the easiest of claims to make, but there are some good appellate opinions in your state's caselaw that would support the claim.  To file this claim, you would need to find an employment law attorney to represent you... especially considering the research that will be needed to perfect the claim.

If the fight or the discharge was motivated by any illegal factors like race, gender, or age, then you may have additional "hostile work environment" claims.  If you are not exactly sure which option is best for you, arrange for a basic consultation with an employment law attorney.  By gathering a few more details, they may be able to help you invoke additional options.

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Absolutely. You should file criminal charges against the co-worker and you need to file suit against your managers, the main head of the company and the company for failure to protect you and for wrongful termination.   You should also through your lawyer contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state labor department.

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