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Employers - Are they liable for acts of employees? 


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Are Employers Responsible for the Acts of Employees?

Your Minnesota Business Lawyers and Attorneys

Increasingly, state courts have recognized that an employer may be sued for acts of its employees. This may apply to acts of sexual harassment, assault and even slander. Minnesota Courts have long recognized that an employer has a duty to exercise reasonable care in retaining individuals who might pose a threat of injury to others. The employer may be guilty of negligence under the following circumstances:

  1. The employer knew or should have known that an employee posed a threat of injury to others;
  2. the employer fails to take further action such as investigation, discharge, or reassignment; and
  3. the employee causes injury to another person because of his/her unfit character.

Generally, this law is applied with regard to sexual harassment in the work place where the employer has not taken proper steps to ensure that harassment in the workplace does not occur. However, liability may extend to such things as assault and slander when the employer has information regarding the employees propensity to commit such acts. The acts do not necessarily have to occur on the business premises but may also occur at employer sponsored functions such as Christmas and award parties. The employer may be found to have been aware of the employee's propensity for improper behavior under a number of circumstances including: the existence of offensive material in the workplace (insensitive joke postings on bulletin boards, sexual reading materials or photographs); inappropriate behavior that occurs in a supervisor's presence; or information provided to the employer through employee complaints or job applications. What steps can an employer take to avoid these devastating lawsuits:

  1. Review employee applications carefully including answers relating to past employment and terminations;
  2. Enact a written anti-harassment policy and disseminate that policy to each employee;
  3. Educate supervisors about the law with regard to employer liability for the acts of its employees;
  4. Investigate complaints of inappropriate behavior immediately keeping a written record of all actions taken during the investigation;
  5. Enforce a strict disciplinary procedure for employees violating the company policy. Does your business have the necessary protections in place?

*** It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  That is never more true than in the area of employer liability for acts of employees.  For representation in your employment law matter call Minnesota's business and employment lawyers at (612) 240-8005.

For Your Minnesota issues call (612) 240-8005

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