Workplace Violence and Background Checks
May 11, 2007
Although it may come as a surprise to most people, an employer can be held liable for an assault committed by his employee. Negligent hiring or negligent retention of an employee is a viable cause of action in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts is not alone in recognizing such causes of action.
The doctrine of negligent hiring and retention states that an employer whose employees are brought in contact with members of the public in the course of his business has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the selection and retention of his employees. Courts have explained this principal by stating, “An employer must use due care to avoid selection or retention of an employee whom he knows or should know is a person unworthy, by habits, temperament, or nature, to deal with the persons invited to the premises of the employer. The employer’s knowledge of past acts of impropriety, violence or disorder on the part of the employee is generally considered sufficient to forewarn the employer who selects or retains such employee in his service that he may eventually commit an assault.”
Courts in Massachusetts and in other jurisdictions have also held that there is no legal requirement that an employer make an inquiry with law enforcement agencies about an employee’s possible criminal record, even where an employee is to deal regularly with the public.
Basically, the courts require that an employer act on the information he knows or should know about his employee. However, …
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by: Adam J. Basch, Esq.
April 30, 2007