Just the Facts, Ma’am
The story of actor Thomas Gibson of the television show “Criminal Minds” has been in the news recently. According to news reports, he had a disagreement with writer-producer Virgil Williams. The altercation escalated with Mr. Gibson kicking Mr. Williams in the shins. Williams filed a complaint with the studio’s human resource representative. Initially, Gibson was suspended for two shows. However, when news of the altercation came out, he was ultimately fired.
News reports indicate that Gibson has “lawyered up” and they are evaluating a claim against the production company. Of course, you probably will not win if you get fired for kicking somebody. However, Gibson may have a contract that limits the grounds for which he may be fired.
What Does Colorado Say About This?
Some may wonder what liability an employer may have for a physical altercation between employees. Under Colorado law, as in most places, such an injury would be covered by workers compensation insurance, if the employee’s dispute was related to work issues (as this one seems to have been). When a claim is covered by workers compensation, then that system sets the limits of the claim. The injured employee cannot bring other claims against the employer. On the other hand, if an employee’s injuries are not related to work issues, workers compensation does not apply. However, the employer could still be possible if the injured employee could prove that the employer was negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising the employee that committed the assault.
Before workplace issues get to this point, however, employers should consider workplace mediation to resolve disputes between employers, or claims of unfair or illegal treatment by employees. Getting an early resolution is always better than waiting until somebody gets sued. Or kicked.
Sam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.