CDC Issues Guidance on Dealing with Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19
The CDC issued guidance on August 24, 2020, specific to handling violence in retail, services, and other customer-based business settings. The stated purpose of the guidance is to offer strategies to limit violence towards workers that may occur when businesses put in place policies and practices to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 among employees and customers.
These policies may include requiring masks to be worn by employees and customers. Asking customers to follow social distancing rules and setting limits on the number of customers allowed in a business facility at one time. The guidance defines workplace violence as “violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty.”
Workplace violence includes:
- Threats – Verbal, written, and physical expressions that could reasonably be interpreted as intending to cause harm.
- Verbal Assault – Yelling, swearing, insulting, or bullying another person with the intent of hurting or causing harm. Unlike physical assaults, the intent is not necessarily to cause physical harm, but negative emotions of the person being assaulted.
- Physical Assault – Hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, choking, grabbing, or another physical contact with the intent of causing injury or harm.
It defines a nonviolent response as a peaceful approach to address a situation in which a person is aggressive or threatening. This technique involves remaining calm, giving a person space, making sure other people are in the area, not touching the person, or trying to forcibly remove them.
The guidance offers links to resources and training on workplace violence and offers information that a business might use to prevent such incidents. It recommends providing employee training as to the warning signs and response to violence.
Finally, it offers basic dos and don’ts for employees to prevent workplace violence. Some information is in a format to be posted within a place of business for employee reference. The guidance noted that the information is not intended to address every business setting.
A business may need to adapt these strategies based on its physical space, staffing, and other factors. However, all employers falling within this category are encouraged to review and apply this information, if applicable. It can be found here.
Anne-Marie Storey, Esq