Increasing Risks to Pharmacy Workers
As the opioid crisis continues to grow in North Carolina, the risk of violence and harassment of pharmacy workers also increases. Last month at a Walgreens near Raleigh, an angry customer arguing with a pharmacy employee about his prescription pulled out a gun and shot her, sending her to the hospital for two weeks, according to a report from CBS-17. Like nurses and other hospital workers, it appears pharmacy employees also are seeing the increased risk of workplace violence due to addiction. Some considerations for folks working in retail drug stores and hospital pharmacies:
Workers’ compensation claims are no-fault.
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides coverage for injured employees regardless of fault. Therefore, even when the employer follows all the rules, if a pharmacy employee is attacked or harassed in the workplace by a customer, workers’ compensation may cover any resulting physical or mental injury. The attorneys at Ricci Law Firm represent employees victimized by customers, co-workers, or supervisors. They can also advise whether such employees may pursue a separate civil claim against the assailant.
Stress claims are compensable, too.
A pharmacy employee need not suffer physical violence to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The problem of verbal attacks is so rampant that WRAL recently reported that some pharmacists claim that threats are a daily occurrence on the job. The report cites the opioid epidemic, describing customers spitting at pharmacists, throwing objects at them, and using obscenities.
Pharmacists and pharmacy techs should know that there is nothing normal about receiving threats in the workplace, and that it is appropriate to report any type of assault (physical or non-physical) as a workers’ compensation claim if it causes anxiety or distress. Unlike physical attacks, the damage from emotional attacks may take longer to recognize and diagnose. Therefore, pharmacy employees should report and document all incidents in case he or she later begins to experience the following symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, identified by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
- Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
If the customer threats and other incidents are properly documented, the workers’ compensation claim for emotional harm is much more likely to succeed.
Workers’ compensation covers work-related disputes.
The attorneys at Ricci Law Firm closely follow workers’ compensation law about work-related disputes and violence. For example, for a pharmacy employee, the assigned task of distributing or refusing to distribute a narcotic may be deemed to place the employee at an increased risk of violence, such that customer attacks are compensable. On the other hand, not all attacks and threats are covered under workers’ compensation. If the fight stems from a lovers’ quarrel or an unsettled personal debt, for example, then the incident most likely is not work-related. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Ricci Law Firm can assess the situation and explain the law to help victims determine whether workers’ compensation may apply.
If you or a loved one works in the pharmacy industry and has been the victim of physical or verbal attacks, harassment, or threats, contact an attorney at Ricci Law Firm for a free consultation.