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You must protect customers—Even from off-Duty workers

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

If you think your employment law risk for each employee disappears the moment the person walks out your door each night, consider the following important court ruling. It shows how your organization can be liable even for off-duty employees who loiter near the workplace.

Employers have a legal duty to keep customers safe. That duty includes making sure off-duty workers don’t harm customers if that harm is foreseeable.

The bottom line: Remind supervisors that if they see trouble brewing—even if it involves employees who have already clocked out—they have a duty to intervene and stop things before they get out of hand.

Recent case: At a Texas fast-food restaurant, 15-year-old customer Mike Foradori got into a dispute with an older teen restaurant employee. The employee was off-duty at the time, but still wearing his work uniform. Apparently the employee believed Foradori was hitting on his girlfriend.

Another off-duty employee soon joined in, and the restaurant manager told them all to take it outside. A third employee then clocked out and went outside with the others.

There, the employee who had just clocked out punched Foradori in the back of the neck, knocking him unconscious. Foradori then hit the pavement with enough force to break his neck and paralyze him.

Foradori sued the restaurant for negligent supervision and failure to regulate, train, supervise and control its off-duty employees while they were on the premises.

A jury awarded Foradori $20 million. An appeals court upheld the verdict, concluding that the restaurant had a duty to control the employees even if they had clocked out but were still on the premises. (Foradori v. Harris, et al., No. 06-60030, 5th Cir., 2008)

Final tip: Make sure managers know what to do during an altercation. They should have specific instructions on whom to call or how to prevent violence.

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