Q. We recently had an incident in which a supervisor hit an employee. Are we liable? What kind of violence is a company responsible for preventing?
A. An employer is liable for an employee’s torts committed in the course and scope of employment. Under limited circumstances, an employee’s intentional or criminal acts can fall within the course and scope of employment.
The definition of conduct within the scope of employment is:
- It is of a kind and nature that the employee is employed to perform.
- It occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits of the employment.
- It is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer.
- If, in cases in which an employee intentionally uses force against another, the use of force is not unexpected by the employer.
Under Pennsylvania law, when an employee commits an act encompassing the use of force that is excessive and so dangerous as to be totally without responsibility or reason, the employer is not responsible as a matter of law.
Thus, the determination of liability must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It depends on the individual circumstances of the incident.