Are Employers on the Hook for Remote Workplace Safety?

In a recent court case out of California, Colonial, a moving and storage company, was sued by two women who were shot while visiting a co-worker for dinner and work-related activities. 

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the co-worker, Carol Holaday, who at the time was a supervisor for Colonial, had invited Crystal Dominguez to her home. Crystal worked for Colonial out of the San Francisco office. Rachel Schindler and her baby joined her. 

Carol didn’t disclose to her guests that her son, Kyle, who suffered from PTSD from his time in the military, was home and had a history of misusing firearms. 

The three women and Holaday’s husband, Jim Wilcoxson, enjoyed a nice dinner and did some networking and other general work. Then, Kyle emerged from wherever he’d been during their work session and opened fire on the group. Jim Wilcoxson died, and the two women were also shot. 

After the shooting, both Schindler and Dominguez filed lawsuits against Carol Holaday and Colonial. But Colonial quickly built a defense on the premise that they couldn’t have foreseen Kyle’s behavior. 

When litigation eventually finished, the California Court of Appeal in Colonial Van & Storage, Inc. v. Superior Court ruled that an employer must take measures to provide a safe workplace environment free of violence.  

However, the duty does not “include ensuring that an off-site meeting place for co-workers and business associates like an employee’s private residence is safe from third-party criminal harm….” 

While there is no precedent for remote workplace safety, especially when hosting co-workers or management in your own home, there is a general expectation of entering a safe environment. 

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