Employer Liability for an Employee’s Bad Acts
In some instances, employers may be held liable for the injuries and damages caused by those they employ. Generally, it will have to be proven that the employer knew or should have known that employee’s conduct could result in injury to a third party before an employer can be held liable for an employee’s acts. Additionally, state statutes may impose a requirement that the injury occurred during working hours or “under the color of employment.” Employers normally are not held responsible for torts caused by employees when they are not working.
Types of Claims
Some of the claims that might be brought against an employer for harm caused by an employee include negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision. Let’s take a closer look at each type of claim:
A negligent hiring claim seeks to impose liability on an employer for hiring an unfit or unsuitable employee. To succeed in this claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s unfitness at the time he or she was hired and that by hiring the employee, the employer created a foreseeable or unreasonable risk of harm to third parties.
Employers have a duty to conduct reasonable investigations into an employee’s qualifications for a particular employment position. While employers do not have a duty to conduct criminal background checks on potential employees, it is common for employers to do so, unless restricted by state law. If the employer knew a particular employee had a violent past based on his or her criminal record, this could be used as evidence of the employer’s knowledge of the employee’s unfitness for employment.
A negligent retention claim seeks to impose liability on employers for continuing to employ someone that they knew or should have known was unfit or incompetent. Employers also may be liable for not investigating claims against an employee who has been charged with being incompetent, violent or otherwise unfit. Like a negligent hiring claim, the employer must have had knowledge, or should have had knowledge of the employee’s unfitness.
A negligent supervision claim seeks to impose employer liability for the intentional acts caused by an employee either while the employee was on the employer’s property or using employer-owned property. In order for the employer to be held liable, the employer must have had the ability to control the employee and the employer must have known or should have known of the necessity for exercising control over the employee.
Intoxicated Employees at Employer-Sponsored Events
A minority of jurisdictions allow third parties injured by intoxicated employees who consumed alcohol at an employer-sponsored social event to bring claims against the employer for their injuries. Most jurisdictions, however, refuse to impose liability on employers for the acts of intoxicated employees.