Why can businesses be held liable for their employees’ actions?
As a business owner, you can often be held liable for your employees’ actions — even if you had no direct involvement in them. Just as you benefit from your employees’ ideas, expertise and/or physical labor, you also may have to bear some responsibility if they cause harm to others. When one employee injures another one, for example, the courts allow typically allow the victim to sue the employer as well as the person who harmed them so that they can recover the compensation they’re seeking. The legal doctrine “respondeat superior”
allows employers to be held vicariously liable for harm caused — intentionally or not — by their employees. Often this harm to other employees involves a workplace accident. If an employee has left tools lying around where others can trip over them, for example, or a worker failed to turn off a piece of equipment, anyone injured by that negligence could likely hold the employer liable. Business owners can also be held liable
for workplace harassment by their employees. Verbal and/or physical harassment at work can be sexual in nature. It can also be related to a person’s race, religion, disability, gender or other characteristic that’s protected under the law. If a victim can show that an employer knew about the harassment and failed to take reasonable action to stop it, they can be held liable. That’s why it’s imperative that employers investigate all allegations of harassment and discrimination by their employees, customers and others. Employers can be held liable for their employees’ actions toward nonemployees if it’s shown that they were negligent in hiring them or keeping them employed in a particular job. For example, say a person who works for a home health care provider steals from someone in their care. It’s more likely that the victim can hold the employer liable if that employee had a theft conviction on their record that the employer failed to find out about or ignored when hiring them. If you’re being held liable for an employee’s actions or negligence that caused harm, talk with an experienced attorney. They can help you work to fight the lawsuit or at least mitigate the consequences to your bottom line and your reputation.