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Type: physical

Physical Assault

What is physical assault?
What are the signs of physical assault?
What are the consequences of physical assault at work?
What are the legal consequences of physical assault?

What is physical assault?

Physical assault takes place when an individual or a group provokes and attacks a person physically, with or without the use of a weapon, or threatens to hurt that person. Work-related aggression happens through the use of force or threats to a non-consenting victim on the work premises or in the context of the victimís work.

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What are the signs of physical assault?

The following are examples of physical assault.

Example: During a bank robbery, employees are held as hostage and some are beaten up.

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What are the consequences of physical assault in the workplace?

The victim of assault, having lived through a traumatic ordeal, may be affected not only physically (physical scars, chronic pain) but also psychologically (shock, constant fear, emotional instability). Depending on the injuries, the victim could be unable to work for days, even months, be hospitalized and in more severe cases, have to undergo rehabilitation therapy.

Warning! Even if there was no physical contact, a person may be accused of physical assault; for example, an aggressor spits in your face or makes death threats that leave you fearing for your life.

Witnesses of physical assault experience a high level of stress. Based upon the degree of the violence itself and the length of the altercation between co-workers, some witnesses could suffer from psychological (insomnia, nervousness, emotional instability, exhaustion) as well as physiological (hypertension, ulcers, eczema) distress.

On the other hand, depending on how much they knew the victim and whether they could have intervened, some witnesses could be prosecuted for failing to assist a person in danger or for criminal conspiracy or incitement.

Physical assault against employees highlights an organizationís ability to prevent and resolve conflicts among employees and to ensure security. Consequently, the company may suffer important losses in the form of sick leaves, replacements, insurance, lawsuits as well as in the cost of reinforcing security measures and setting up employee assistance programs.

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What are the legal consequences of physical assault?

Depending upon the extent of the violence, the Criminal Code distinguishes between three types of assaults. They are:

Depending upon the type of offence (an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction), the Criminal Code sets different sentences for each that may vary from a simple maximum fine of $2,000 up to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. The Code also prohibits robbery with possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives.

Here, as an example, is how the Criminal Code describes robbery:

343. Every one commits robbery who

  1. steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;

  2. steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;

  3. assaults any person with intent to steal from him; or

  4. steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.

344. Every person who commits robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

  1. where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and

  2. in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

A conviction under the law or the Criminal Code can affect a personís right to practice a trade or profession.

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