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Are Injuries From Workplace Assaults The New Normal?

In the last couple years, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in workplace injuries due to assaults. Usually, it’s a service industry worker assaulted by some irate customer. The customer gets angry because they had to wait for a table at the restaurant, or maybe they could not get their favorite table. So, the person become irate and hits the hostess. It’s all too common. It’s shameful behavior.

Over the last couple years, I’ve written several articles on the issue. My articles include the two below that discuss several serious workplace assaults:

When I wrote my prior articles highlighting the uptick in workers’ comp assault injuries for 2020 and 2021, I was hopeful the trend would reverse. After all, we are returning from a difficult period of pandemic shutdowns! Unfortunately, we are still living through difficult and angry time. Many businesses continue to suffer disruptions from staffing and supply shortages. These disruptions increase customer frustrations. That’s still no excuse for an assault.

Are workplace assaults from angry customers some sort of bizarre new normal? I hope not. However, this bad behavior continues to occur. This week, I read an article about two customers at a Florida fast food restaurant who became angry over their order and began beating one of the employees. According to the article, the employee was beaten so badly she required hospital treatment for a concussion. I just cannot imagine anyone beating someone so badly they suffer a traumatic brain injury over a food order. But, these events have become all too common. The headline tells you everything — Women Took Turns Beating Florida Steak ‘n Shake Worker Over Order Mistake. You can read the recent article at AL.com.

Are you entitled to workers compensation benefits in Alabama if assaulted on the job? Yes, you are. As long as you are not the instigator or aggressor, you should be entitled to work comp benefits.

While workplace assault injuries seem to be most common in service-related businesses like restaurants, they do occur pretty frequently elsewhere as well. Last year, we helped a client who suffered a disabling traumatic brain injury (TBI) when assaulted at work here in Huntsville. He was an apartment maintenance worker assaulted while trying to repair a vacant apartment.

While I still hope this trend of workplace assaults reverses, the continuous stream of news and legal articles makes me feel less optimistic. Employers (especially in some industries like restaurants) need to take steps to protect their frontline employees from out-of-control customers. If you are an employee hurt by a customer assault, you are probably entitled to work comp benefits which includes the medical care you need to recover. Get the treatment you need.

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