If I am hurt at work due to another employee, and that employee then retaliates against me for making a workers’ comp claim, do I have a case against the company?

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If I am hurt at work due to another employee, and that employee then retaliates against me for making a workers’ comp claim, do I have a case against the company?

I will start off with the injury. This employee decided to fall on top of me after I repeatedly said no. This resulted in a back sprain and possibly worse waiting on the MRI results. This employee did not get in trouble. He then went on to complain about my workers’ comp claim and has made our work environment uncomfortable. He no longer speaks to me, even when he needs something from me. He will ask someone else to talk to me. My company received a complaint about his actions after the incident from a third employee, and concluded that we both need to move on and get over it.

I feel that my company is not handling this fairly. I have been with them for six years and have seen good employees fired over silly horseplay, and this particular employee doesn’t even receive a slap on the hand. I now have to live with this continuous back pain hopefully not for the rest of my life and with this person who despite my ‘no’s,’ still decided it was ok to put his entire body on me. Not only did it injure me, but it violated my personal space. I learned a long time ago that no means no, but apparently at my company there are no consequences for men who behave like children. And the blame will be placed on the female victim.

Asked on March 10, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, an employer is not liable for the criminal acts (like assault--and this was assault) of its employees, since such acts are beyond the scope of employment: that is, it's not part of the job to, for example, asssault other employees). So leaving the gender issue aside for the moment, the employer is not responsible for his "falling on" you. Also, an employer is not required to make coworkers get along: he is allowed to be unpleasant to you, make your work environment uncomfortable, and the employer would not be liable for that, either. 
However, if you believe that gender plays a role--that he is being allowed to bully or harass you because you are a woman--that may be illegal sex-based discrimination or harassment. If you think that is the case, contact the federal equal employment opportunity commission or EEOC about filing a complaint.
Note that you could also sue your attacker personally for your injuries and out-of-pocket medical costs; you may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney about whether doing so makes sense.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, an employer is not liable for the criminal acts (like assault--and this was assault) of its employees, since such acts are beyond the scope of employment: that is, it's not part of the job to, for example, asssault other employees). So leaving the gender issue aside for the moment, the employer is not responsible for his "falling on" you. Also, an employer is not required to make coworkers get along: he is allowed to be unpleasant to you, make your work environment uncomfortable, and the employer would not be liable for that, either. 
However, if you believe that gender plays a role--that he is being allowed to bully or harass you because you are a woman--that may be illegal sex-based discrimination or harassment. If you think that is the case, contact the federal equal employment opportunity commission or EEOC about filing a complaint.
Note that you could also sue your attacker personally for your injuries and out-of-pocket medical costs; you may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney about whether doing so makes sense.


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