The Resort to Law

Lesson 4: Topic 11 of 14

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Earlier we mentioned that there are, as of this writing, no laws at the Federal level mandating employers address workplace violence. That may change. In 2019 and again in 2021, Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced legislation, which if enacted, would require the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to address workplace violence in medical, social service, and other healthcare settings. Both times his bills passed in the House with bipartisan cosponsors, but no meaningful action was taken in the Senate. 

As to the specifics of the proposed legislation, healthcare establishments would be required to have a Violence Prevention Program tailored to their specific work situation, developed with the “meaningful participation” of staff. The plan would have to:

  • Take into account any previous episodes of violence at that facility
  • Implement environmental and engineering controls
  • Train employees about violence response, reporting, and mitigation techniques
  • Establish a system for investigation of, logging, and reporting of violent episodes
  • Include a facility risk assessment or threat assessment, which is updated annually
  • Provide medical care or first aid to impacted employees
  • Clearly designate who is responsible for the VPP’s development and implementation

Facilities would be required to maintain records of the above for a minimum of five years.

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Rep. Courtney’s bills have supporters and critics, even within the healthcare community. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the Nursing Community Coalition are backers, while the American Hospital Association opposes. Much of the criticism centers on complaints about redundancy, burdensome reporting compliance, and the financial cost on the employer. Nevertheless, this bill or one like it may pass at some point in the future. Also, note again that this legislation as it is presently worded would only apply to healthcare settings, but that too could change.