How a Worker’s Suicide Can Impact a Business

Companies should want what’s best for their employees. If a business entity’s workers are happy, they will probably stay with that company, and employee retention is vital. If your business cannot keep the same workers, you need to spend all of your time head hunting, interviewing, and onboarding.

As a business owner, you also want to keep your employees safe. If anything happens to them, their family might sue you for unsafe work conditions. A wrongful death lawsuit can cost you millions, and it can also give your company a bad reputation within your niche.

Many business owners never consider what might happen if one of their workers commits suicide. It is definitely an interesting question from a legal standpoint, and it’s what we’ll talk about in the following article.

How Bad is the Suicide Issue?

The first thing that business owners should understand is that suicide is a bigger problem than most people expect when you take the time to look at the numbers. Suicide rates are going up. In 2018, for instance, the suicide rate was more than two and half times that of the homicide rate.

There are different reasons why people commit suicide. However, mental health professionals point to undiagnosed mental issues, drug problems, financial problems, and political strife.

The pandemic certainly has not helped matters. During the past year, many individuals have not seen their families as much because of social distancing requirements. This means they have not had the support network access that might have helped them.

These individuals can seek deeper into despair, and they may feel more isolated. If they don’t have the tools to help them, whether those are therapy appointments, prescription drugs, and so forth, they may start to regard suicide as an increasingly attractive option.

What About Suicide at Work?

As for people committing suicide at work, it happens sometimes, but frankly, it’s seldom that big of an issue because people rarely have the opportunity to do the deed in a workplace setting. 

It’s hard to swallow an excess number of pills and go long enough without being discovered while on the job so that they can take effect. If you’re doing construction or something of that sort, you might be able to go up somewhere high and jump off, but this sort of thing happens only rarely.

Suicide while at home or somewhere other than a worksite is more common. That still doesn’t answer the question, though, of whether the law can hold an employer responsible if someone takes their own life.

Reasonably Foreseeable Circumstances

The reality is that there’s no real precedent under the law regarding whether a family can hold a company accountable for an individual’s suicide, regardless of whether that suicide took place on the business’s premises or not. The law is going to judge that on a case-by-case basis.

The most critical factor is probably going to be whether the company could have predicted the suicide. In these sorts of trials, if the individual’s family decides to bring a lawsuit, you might hear the term “reasonably foreseeable circumstance.” That means whether the business saw warning signs that this person had mental or emotional issues and whether they did anything about it.

There is one more factor as well. Maybe a jury will not hold a business liable if other employees or this person’s boss saw that the worker in question was unhappy or seemed to be exhibiting unhealthy behaviors. They might also factor in whether the workplace itself was the emotional distress’s cause.

In other words, a jury is probably more likely to hold a company liable if the person who committed suicide not only showed that they were unhappy, but the business itself was at least part of that unhappiness’s cause. If someone kills themselves, and it’s because of problems at home, the company could not have reasonably expected to know about those. If the person was feeling overworked because of challenging assignments or because their coworkers were making fun of them, the jury might hold the company liable because of that.

If a company sees that workers are unhappy, it’s in their best interest not to ignore that. If they do, and the person commits suicide, whether on the business’s property or not, the worker’s family might try to bring a lawsuit against that company. If a jury determines that the company was partially or wholly responsible, they might very well face a significant monetary penalty.

What Next?

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