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An Employer’s Liability for an Employee’s Actions

In many situations, if you have been injured due to a company’s employee, that employee may not be the only one liable for your injuries. Under New York law, an employer is many times liable for their employee’s actions and any injuries that result from those actions, even when the employer had no direct role in any injury sustained or even any intention to cause you injury. The law holds employers responsible, because not only does an employer direct the behavior of its employees but an employer is also better suited to be able to compensate you for any injuries you sustain.

If an employee, in the course of his or her employment, causes you an injury through negligent actions or even a failure to act, then the employer may be held responsible. Generally, an act is considered in the course of employment if the employer has authorized the employee to act or the act is closely related to an act authorized by the employer. On the other hand, the employer will typically not be responsible for an employee’s actions in the event that the employee is going to buy groceries or doing some other personal business on company time.

For example, a number of different employers allow their employees to use a company vehicle, even when not on strict company business. If an employee takes the company car to a bar and gets into a car accident, the employer will generally not be liable because the employee was visiting the bar on his or her own personal time. On the other hand, if the employee takes a client to the bar with the employer’s permission and gets into a car accident, the employer will be responsible, because they were acting with their employer’s authorization. The issue is not always simple though with the issue becoming markedly more complex if the employee is intoxicated, because it is questionable whether or not the employer should have expected the employee to become intoxicated when taking a client to a bar.

If you are injured by an employee, the employer could also be held liable for negligent hiring or negligent retention. Negligent hiring or negligent retention actually involves employee actions that are performed outside the employee’s scope of employment. In most cases with negligent hiring or negligent retention, the employer is held liable for the employee’s criminal conduct. In short, the employer is held responsible for carelessly hiring or retaining a criminal for a job that the employer should have expected would expose others to harm.

For example, a nursing home would likely be held liable for hiring an employee who was previously convicted of fraud and identity theft, if the employee then steals the identity of patients. In this case, it would not be difficult to argue that the nursing home should have known that it was likely the employee would act in this way. Similarly, if the nursing home hires an employee who is charged with identity theft after being hired, the nursing home may be held liable for negligent retention if the employee steals patients’ identities, because there was a significant likelihood that he would do so.