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Are Employers Responsible for What Their Employees Do?

ELI5: Negligence

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When injuries occur while at work, some wonder whether or not their employers can be held responsible for their injuries. Though a worker’s compensation claim will generally handle most work-related claims, regardless of who is at fault, what happens when a customer sustains injury due to a negligent employee?

The Short Answer

The short answer is that, yes, employers are generally responsible for what their employees do while they’re on the clock. This is especially true when it comes to activities that are within the employee’s scope of employment. So if a cook at a restaurant doesn’t realize that the ingredients have expired, and accidentally uses them, and a patron gets sick because of it, the restaurant would likely be liable, not the cook. Although, this doesn’t mean that the injured party would be unable to name the cook in a lawsuit as well. But, unless the cook has a lot of assets, it’d be less likely that they’d be sued since the injured party would have such a difficult time collecting. Now this doesn’t mean that the restaurant is unable to fire the cook for their mistake. It just means that the patron would have the best case against the restaurant instead of the employee. Though it would be possible to name both parties in a lawsuit.

Reasonable Precautions

Just because employees are not generally liable doesn’t mean that they’ve got a get-out-of-jail-free card to act like hooligans when they’re clocked in. Though employers are generally responsible for what their employees do while on the clock, they are still able to reduce their liability. In order to reduce their liability, employers should take reasonable precautions to ensure that their employees don’t injure themselves or others while on the job. Reasonable precautions refers to precautions that a person of ordinary prudence would take in order to prevent injury. The more reasonable precautions a person takes, the less likely it is that they’ll be liable for causing a person’s injuries.

Providing Training

Employers can reduce their liability by providing their employees with adequate training. This is especially important for employees who are working in hazardous conditions, machinery, or strong chemicals. If a customer is injured because an employee didn’t receive the proper training, the employer could be liable. Employers are not only responsible for ensuring that their employees have adequate training, they’re also responsible for ensuring that their employees have adequate personal protective equipment, and that their employees know how to use that equipment.

Adequate Supervision

Depending on the nature of the job, an employer may have a higher duty of care towards their employees. For example, our copywriter probably doesn’t need to have tons of supervision in order to reduce liability. After all, her job is to sit at a desk all day and write content. In fact, she works from home four out of five days per week. However, if we were a restaurant, things might look a little different. An unfortunately common restaurant personal injury claim involves patrons being served cleaning solutions by mistake. Tragically, this mistake often causes serious damages. Having adequate supervision can further ensure that employees are following all safety procedures.

Background Checks

If it’s in a background check, the employer should know about it. Employers are responsible for verifying that the employee’s education, training and experience were accurately reported. For example, if a man claims to be a medical doctor, but he barely graduated high-school, and definitely didn’t go to medical school, the hospital that’s interviewing him is responsible for running a background check. If they hire him without verifying his credentials, it may be negligent hiring. When they find out he’s never been to medical school, terminating him is likely in their best interest. Failure to do so may be considered negligent retention.

Can the Employee Ever Be Personally Liable?

Yes! An employee can still be personally liable for injuries they cause. However, the circumstances would need to be extraordinary. For the most part, employers are responsible for what their employees do when their employees are at work, or in the scope of their employment. Employers can reduce their liability by providing their employees with adequate training and safety equipment. They may also conduct background checks to ensure that the employee doesn’t pose a danger to the customers or to the other employees. Additionally, an employer may fire employees who are not qualified for the job, or pose a danger to the other employees or patrons of the establishment.

Injured? We’re Here for You

If you have been injured and you need compensation, contact Moxie Law Group for a free consultation. At Moxie Law Group, our attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that our clients get the compensation they need. If you’ve sustained injury due to the negligence of another party, contact Moxie Law Group today.

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