You probably know that employers can and are sometimes held liable if their employees harm customers. That’s especially true if they knew or should have known that the employee might be dangerous. For example, you wouldn’t hire a convicted rapist to perform service calls unsupervised in customers’ homes.
But your potential liability—if you negligently hired an employee in the first place—doesn’t go on indefinitely. While it might not end the day you terminate the employee, it does end after some time has passed, as the following case shows.
Recent case: When Trisha Phillips’ mother called TLC Plumbing to have work done in her home, she didn’t know the man assigned to her job had been on parole when TLC hired him. He had been convicted of domestic violence.
Apparently Phillips’ mother took a liking to the plumber and began a romantic relationship with him. Meanwhile TLC fired him after just a few weeks for drug and alcohol abuse. Two years later, when Phillips’ mother tried to break off the relationship, the former plumber shot and killed her.
Phillips sued TLC, alleging negligent hiring.
But the California Court of Appeal said she had no case. Too much time had passed between the hiring, the firing and the crime to hold TLC liable. (Phillips v. TLC Plumbing, No. D053072, California Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate Division, 2009)
Final note: Don’t know what to do when you find out an employee has a record? Always contact your attorney.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- A slur is a slur, no matter the language--and deserves harsh discipline
- Need new employees? Hire the ones you let go
- What's your duty to accommodate domestic violence victims?
- How to thwart bias lawsuits: Have supervisor who did the hiring also handle firing