Could questioning an employee about an incident be considered assault?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. One of our employees was involved in an incident and questioned regarding suspected ­wrongdoing. He is now bringing a suit against the company, alleging that the act of being brought into a room and questioned at length constitutes false imprisonment and that the aggressive questioning constituted assault. Does he have a case?

A. It depends on what happened during the questioning. Employers have the right to conduct reasonable investigations about workplace incidents, including interviewing their employees. It is possible that aggressive conduct during such questioning could leave to claims of false imprisonment and assault, in egregious circumstances.

To prevail on a claim of false imprisonment, the em­­ployee would likely have to show that he was not able to leave the room and that the questioning was unreasonably long or was threatening. To prove assault, he would need to show that the questioner intended to put him in fear of imminent bodily contact. It would be the rare case where an employee is able to prove such claims.

To minimize the risk, employers should treat em­­ployees with respect during questioning, allow them to take breaks if needed, and not engage in threatening behavior.

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