- Employers are viewed as directing the behavior of their employees and therefore must share in the positive as well as the negative results of their employee’s behavior. Because an employer is legally entitled to the rewards of an employee’s labor (profit), an employer also has the legal liability if that same behavior results in harm.
- When someone is injured or harmed and needs to be compensated, the one most likely to pay is the employer. The legal system is interested in making the victim whole, and assigning liability to the employer rather than the employee has the best chance of meeting that goal.
Employers are vicariously liable under the doctrine of “respondeat superior” for the negligent acts or omissions by their employees in the course of employment. The key phrase is “in the course of employment”. For an act to be considered within the course of employment, it must either be authorized by the employer or be so closely related to an authorized act that an employer should be held responsible.
Negligent Hiring or Retention
Negligent hiring or retention liability, unlike job related misconduct, arises from acts performed by an employee outside the scope of his or her employment. The most common example of this is to hold an employer liable for the criminal conduct of an employee, which is obviously outside the scope of employment. The basis for liability is that the employer acted carelessly in hiring a criminal for a job that the employer should have expected would expose others to harm.
Workplace harassment of employees by other employees has become an increasingly problematic source of business liability for employers. Workplace harassment violates federal law if it involves discriminatory treatment based on: race, color, sex (with or without sexual conduct), religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or the employee’s opposition job discrimination or participation in an investigation or complaint proceeding under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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Source: Tom Collins