Dealing With a Violent Customer Who Attacked Your Employees

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Every retail worker is trained to assume that the customer is always right. When a customer complains, no matter how ridiculous or unreasonable they might sound, a good retail worker should apologize and ask how they could help. But what if a customer doesn't just act rude, but downright violent?

Insider.com published an article rounding up the "Retail Horror Stories" retail workers originally shared on Reddit. One of those accounts is of a former employee at a grocery store, who once had a customer who threatened to climb over the counter and beat them up. All because the grocery store was out of potato bacon soup.

Another story is of a shop employee. They were about to leave when their manager asked them to stick around because a shoplifter was caught on the premises. So they stayed and confronted the shoplifter. However, instead of cooperating, the shoplifter grabbed the shop manager's arm until it bled.

That's not even the worst of it yet. Apparently, after the shoplifter was asked to stay put, she pulled out a box knife and started cutting her wrists. Then, with bloody hands, she began to chase the employee and the manager, wielding her knife.

These types of incidents are something you wouldn't normally think about every day at work. But they're very real, and they show how retail workers are constantly at risk for injuries because of disturbed customers.

If one of your employees experienced the wrath of a violent customer, take these steps to protect your employee and hold their attacker liable:

1. Seek Medical Attention for Your Injured Employee

Before dealing with the attacker, pay attention to your employee and assess their injury. Put them in a safe place away from their attacker, and call 911 if their injury appears to be serious. If they aren't badly hurt, you can assist them in first aid care, or advise them to seek medical treatment themselves as soon as possible.

2. File a Report

In usual cases, an employee who has been injured on the job should file a claim against their company. Your company's worker's compensation insurance should then cover the costs of their treatment.

But in this case, wherein the employee's injuries were given by a customer, you can consult a personal injury lawyer and consider filing charges. Gather evidences of the incident, such as CCTV footage, witness's statements, and you and your employee's own account of events. You should also take photos of your employee's injuries, and ask for their doctor's statement if they had a procedure done to treat their injuries.

3. Consider Your Own Behavior Toward the Customer and Your Employee

Sometimes, you can be liable for a customer's violent acts toward your employees. If at some point, you practiced negligence, such as allowing the customer's outburst even if it's already putting your employee's safety at risk, you may hold liability if the customer physically attacks your employee.

Employers must protect their employees from situations like this. To fulfill that duty, you must've implemented safety measures in your premises. For example, prohibit entry to anyone without a face mask on. That way, if a maskless customer decides to throw a fit, they won't be inside your premises should they get physical. However, if you still let them in because you don't want to be yelled at, and the customer lashed out their anger to your employee in turn, you've practiced negligence for your own policies, and thus should be held liable for your employee's injuries.

Other instances of negligence are ignoring racial slurs, gender discriminatory slurs, and sexual predatory behaviors displayed by customers. Once an employee reports about a suspicious customer to you, choose to side with your employee and call out the customer if they act out of line.

4. Ban the Customer

Business owners have the right to ban certain customers from their premises. But be careful in doing this. If, for example, the customer who attacked your employee was Black, you cannot respond by banning all Blacks from your premises. To do so would be against the federal Civil Rights Act, which protects people of all races, gender, nationality, and religion from discrimination.

Instead, ban the attacker themselves, and be on guard the moment you spot a customer you suspect is a shoplifter or a troublemaker. You can deny them entry to your premises as long as you won't display a bias against a federally protected group of people.

You can also ask your employees if there's someone specific whom they'd like you to ban. That could be abusive exes, stalkers, a known cheater in card games (if you own a casino), sex offenders, or a customer who has been rude to them in the past.

Remember, the moment your employee's safety and dignity have been compromised, it's time to throw away the "customer is always right" rule. Your employees count on your for their safety and well-being, so choose them over your business's reputation.

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