Our partner Dan Struck was recently interviewed by Restaurant Startup and Growth magazine for an article titled “A Shattered Peace: How to Protect Your Staff and Reduce Your Liability from Customer Harassment and Violence.”
Brad advises proactive vigilance in the workplace is the key to reducing an operator’s liability in the workplace. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Any type of violent altercation between employees and customers is a public relations disaster, as well as a legal, operational, and HR nightmare. From a legal perspective, liability comes down to whether an operator had knowledge of the circumstances – and foreseeability of customer conduct is part of foreknowledge. “I didn’t think it could happen here” holds low credibility these days.
“Employers need to understand the appropriate response for an act of customer aggression and communicate to employees, in a positive way, about what steps need to be taken,” explains Dan Struck, partner at law firm Culhane Meadows. “From the employment practices liability insurance perspective, ignoring [customer aggression] is not a solution.”
“Employers need to think more seriously about the safety of employees, be more aware of their potential exposures and have a plan for responding to issues,” that includes insurance coverage, Struck recommends.
Selecting the right insurance to reduce risk has meant cobbling together protection from a patchwork of policies, including worker’s compensation, general liability, liquor liability, or directors and officers liability, which shelters operators from personal losses if the restaurant is sued. This situation is hardly ideal for busy operators who want peace of mind.
Whenever there’s “physical injury during the course of the employee carrying out his duties in the workplace, there may be worker’s compensation coverage available,” says Struck, noting this includes injuries resulting from customer violence. That said, this coverage is hardly comprehensive: “Even in the event of an accident, worker’s compensation may not cover all of your employee’s necessary medical bills,” says Adam Guild, CEO of Placepull.com, a restaurant marketing firm.
Acting shooter policies kick in in the immediate aftermath of an incident – right when benefits are needed most. Other advantages include a single deductible and claims process.
Unfortunately, to the extent [gun violence] continues to be a problem, or becomes a more significant issue, we might see additional products being offered by insurers,” Struck says. For now, this is what’s available. When choosing coverage, Struck says “it’s always very important to look at the scope of what is offered and how it matches up with the risk, how it responds to insured’s needs.”
When asked for best practices to reduce operator liability for customer violence, Struck says to “be more vigilant” first and foremost. Operators who are vigilant about risks, liabilities, types of claims, and potential exposure can make informed decisions on what coverage can best address their risks or cover their liability for protecting workers from violent customers.
The complete article can be found HERE.