I am a college professor. My online student has written openly hostile emails to me and now wants to meet me in person. I am afraid to meet him under any circumstances but my contract states that I must be available to meet with students. Must I meet him?

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I am a college professor. My online student has written openly hostile emails to me and now wants to meet me in person. I am afraid to meet him under any circumstances but my contract states that I must be available to meet with students. Must I meet him?

Employer Tidewater Community College is part of the State of Virginia
Community College System. Thus, I am a state employee. Does my employer
have any obligation to protect me from this student? To provide a safe
environment for me to do my job?

Asked on June 24, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, the employer does not have a prospective obligation to protect employees from potentially hostile "customers" or "clients" (in this case, students), such as by providing security, providing intermediaries to handle the meeting instead of you, or by excusing you from the meeting. However, it would be wise for them to do so, since if you have made them aware of your concerns or a threat, if they don't act and you are injured, they could potentially be liable (i.e. you may be able to sue them); therefore, it would be a good idea for them to do something to ensure your safety, if the threat is real. But the law doesn't force people or employers to do the wise thing: they are free to not help you out ahead of time and to require you to meet with the student, but can instead accept the risk of later liabilty if something happens.


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