Kentucky Law to Expand Assault in the Third Degree Beyond Healthcare Providers at Hospitals to Include Clinic, Dental, Outpatient Facility Employees, and More

Epstein Becker & Green

Epstein Becker & Green

We recently wrote about proposed Oregon legislation that would have addressed workplace violence in healthcare settings but failed to move forward in the legislature due to concerns about a provision that would have made assault on a hospital worker punishable as a felony.

This was not a concern that troubled the Kentucky legislature, which on March 27, 2024, signed and delivered to the state governor a bill relating to workplace violence against healthcare workers. The Kentucky legislation expands the offense of assault in the third degree perpetrated against a variety of healthcare employees at different types of facilities. An assault in the third degree under these conditions will be considered a Class D felony for sentencing purposes.

The recently passed legislation, HB 194, amends Section 508.025 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) to include not only healthcare providers but also others “employed by or under contract with a health clinic, doctor’s office, dental office, long-term care facility, hospital, or a hospital-owned or affiliate outpatient facility[.]” The legislation further expands the definition of where an assault takes place for purposes of enforcement under the new law: “If the event occurs in our on the premises of a health clinic, doctor’s office, dental office, long-term care facility, hospital, or a hospital-owned or affiliate outpatient facility.”

KRS § 311.821 defines “healthcare provider” as “any individual who may be asked to participate in any way in a healthcare service, including but not limited to a physician; physician assistant; advanced practice registered nurse; nurse; nurse's aide; medical assistant; hospital employee; clinic employee; nursing home employee; pharmacist; pharmacy employee; researcher; medical or nursing school faculty or employee; or any professional, paraprofessional, or any other person who furnishes or assists in the furnishing of healthcare services[.]” The existing KRS § 508.025 also currently includes—in the list of potential victims triggering assault in the third degree—paid or volunteer emergency medical services personnel if the event occurs during the performance of job-related duties.


Kentucky is joining the wave of states across the country, including Oregon, that in recent years have either enhanced the crime of criminal assaults against those in the healthcare profession—the majority of states make this a felony—or have passed laws designed to lessen the risk of workplace violence against healthcare workers; or both.

Kentucky, in fact, has both. Last year, the Commonwealth passed HB 176, an act relating to healthcare workplace safety, requiring health facilities to develop and execute a workplace safety assessment and a related workplace safety plan to identify and address the risk of workplace violence against healthcare workers. Now codified in KRS §216.701 et. seq, this law requires, among other things, annual training (effective January 1, 2024) for all healthcare workers, volunteers, and contracted safety personnel; recordkeeping; and an internal reporting system—with annual audits of health facilities for compliance by the Commonwealth’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services by January 1, 2025 (see §216.703).

More developments in other states appear to be on the way. We will keep you updated.
Epstein Becker Green Staff Attorney Ann W. Parks contributed to the preparation of this post.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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