How should you respond when an employee reports an threat of potential workplace violence? The Court of Appeal in Franklin v. The Monadnock Company (5/24/07) held an employer has a legal responsibility to provide a safe place of employment for its employees and must respond to allegations of workplace violence.

Franklin alleged a coworker had threatened to kill him and three other employees. The company did not take action. A week later, the co-worker attempted to stab Franklin with a screwdriver and another metal object. He complained again to the company and reported the incident to the police department. Shortly thereafter Franklin was terminated from his employment. He sued the company for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

The Court of Appeal found Franklin could maintain his wrongful termination claim as there was a public policy in providing a safe workplace. California Labor Code § 6400 and Code of Civil Procedure § 527.8 create an obligation for the employer to provide a safe and secure workplace. Specifically, the court emphasized the employer’s obligation to respond where the employee has a reasonable belief of a threat of violence or fear for his or her safety, which creates a “credible threat of violence.”