If you hire a security company to help keep your workplace safe for customers and employees, make sure your supervisors don’t wind up providing specific direction to the guards the company assigns to your company.
If you and your staff resist the temptation to control their every move and give them just general instructions, the security company and its guards remain independent contractors. That’s important for liability reasons.
You aren’t responsible for the misdeeds of independent contractors. But if you treat them like employees, they’ll lose their independent status—and you will be liable if they don’t do their jobs properly.
Recent case: Andrew Dean and his friend checked into a Buffalo Holiday Inn. The hotel had a contract with Shamrock Security to provide security. Shamrock in turn hired off-duty cops to work at the motel. The manager would report problems to the guards, who were then expected to handle those problems themselves.
Dean and his friend called 911 when someone started banging on their door. They believed the knocker was a taxi driver with whom they had recently argued. In reality, it was a Shamrock security guard who had been dispatched to the room to get the guests to quiet down. One thing led to another, and the men were arrested after police backup arrived and sprayed tear gas under the door.
The men sued the motel, alleging that it was responsible for the negligent hiring of the security guard, who apparently had a history of ill temper at his day job as a police officer.
But the court dismissed the case. It said the hotel hired Shamrock Security as an independent contractor. The hotel wasn’t responsible for how Shamrock handled its hiring because the hotel didn’t control exactly how the company provided security. (Dean, et al., v. City of Buffalo, et al., No. 02-CV-6029, WD NY, 2008)
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