Liability of an Employer for Negligent Hiring

Most employers do a good job of checking into the background of newly hired employees. All too often, however, we see employers who fail to adequately check into an employee's background, and that failure results in the new employee injuring someone and creating liability for the employer.

It could be the young man hired to deliver pizza for their restaurant, and the failure to learn of his record of careless driving, speeding and other driving infractions, that should have alerted the employer that this person could hurt someone while going on a pizza delivery.

Or, it could be the childcare center that negligently fails to learn that the newly-employed childcare worker has a history of sexual assaults on children.

Or, it could be the tavern or bar that hires a bouncer, and the employer failed to learn of his history of over aggressiveness and inability to control his temper, with the result that the employee hurts someone unnecessarily who is a guest at the bar.

The law is clear. An employer who hires or retains an incompetent or dangerous employee can be held liable for that employee's wrongful acts, if performed in the course and scope of his employment. Employers have a duty to protect their customers, and often others, from harm their employees cause, and the failure to conduct a careful background check to insure safety and avoid violence in the workplace can result in liability for the employer. Generally, background investigations of new employees include such elements as checking references, social security verification, verifying employment history, educational background, verifying military history, driving history, credit history and determining whether the prospective employee has any criminal history.

U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics have revealed that in one year 13 percent of workplace fatalities were the result of assaults and violent acts by an employee, and it was noted that the average settlement in negligent hiring lawsuits in one jurisdiction was nearly $1 million.

Without question, in the event employment background checks are not conducted properly, employers can be held liable for the wrongful acts of their employees. Employers who do a poor job in checking out new employees before hiring them, or fail to take action to control abusive, belligerent or combative employees, often find themselves embroiled in litigation. Almost always the basis of the suit is that the employer failed to adequately check the employee's background before completing the hire. Employers have also been sued because they failed to dismiss or reassign employees after they learn that the employee was potentially violent or abusive or unsafe in his work practices. These negligence theories are premised on the employer placing the person with known propensities for negligent conduct or criminal behavior in a position where that employee posses s a threat to others.

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