Your employees are unique individuals, and you hire them in the hopes they will add something to your company and increase your profits. However, when employees do something detrimental or illegal while working, then the employer is often the one who has to foot the bill. This is one reason why it is so important to do your best to hire people you trust. While there are certainly exceptions, many times if an employee engages in wrongful conduct, you will be the one with your back to the fire.
Why Are Employers Often Liable?
It is completely understandable to wonder why you as the business owner would be accountable for another person’s actions. After all, you are hiring adults, and adults should be responsible for everything they do. However, there are a couple of reasons why the law views you as being equally liable for job-related incidents. For starters, you are seen as directly influencing employees’ behavior. You encourage them to perform well, so when they perform poorly, that is reflected on you as well. Additionally, since you are legally entitled to profit from an individual’s actions, by proxy you suffer when those actions result in pain and suffering.
What Is Defined as Job-Related?
There is a concept known as respondeat superior, which is a Latin phrase meaning “let the superior answer.” Basically, you are responsible for the action of those who work underneath you. If an employee is carrying out an action for your company, then anything that happens while she or he is doing that action is seen as your responsibility as well. However, there may be times when an employee acts negligently, but there is no way it can reasonably be seen as your fault.
As an example, consider the scenario where you give your employees company vehicles so they can meet clients all over the city. If an employee is driving a company car to meet a corporate client and hits a pedestrian, then you would likely be seen as liable because the accident took place while on a company appointment. However, if an employee took the company car out for a spin after hours, got drunk and ended up in an accident, then it is less likely you would be seen as liable. The reasoning is that the accident took place after hours and the employee was not engaged in company business.
What Is Negligent Hiring?
You may also be held liable if an employee breaks the law and you knew or should have reasonably known the employee was capable of such actions. An example of this would be failing to conduct a background check to see that an employee was convicted of robbery, and then that worker robs a customer. Conducting a background check is a fairly basic action that should be carried out, especially if you are hiring someone who will be interacting with the general public. If you find out something about an employee, either during the hiring process or after they have been hired, that would put your customers or other employees at risk, then it is your responsibility to not hire that employee or to remove that employee from the position or the company in order to protect customers and other employees.
An employee who breaks the law while under your employment will likely be arrested and sued as well, but you could lose a substantial amount of money by not properly vetting your workforce. While it is not possible to completely protect yourself against certain situations, there is still quite a bit that can be done to limit your exposure.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.