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When a Customer Accuses an Employee of Theft, it is Time to Legal-Up


Thanks to what is known as “respondeat superior,” an employer may be held liable for an employee’s wrongful or negligent actions that are carried out within an employee’s normal scope of work. For instance, if an accountant is responsible for taking client payment information over the phone and entering it into the system, and said accountant decides to copy card numbers and use a bit of customer money for his or her own purposes, the employer can be held liable, as well as the employee. When this occurs, the court will look at joint and several liability when assigning damages.

Though there are several reasons an employer might be held liable for an employee’s wrongful actions, including failure to implement privacy policies, failure to properly train employees, and failure to investigate complaints, the two most common reasons employers are forced to share liability include negligent hiring and negligent retention. If one of your employees was accused of stealing from customers or clients, reach out to the Fort Lauderdale business litigation lawyers at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A. to start building your defense right away.

Negligent Hiring and Negligent Retention 

Negligent hiring or retention liability cases arise from acts performed by employees that are outside of their scope of employment. Stealing from customers is, obviously, outside of a person’s scope of employment. Unfortunately, employers can be held liable for this because of the assumption that he or she should have known that he or she was hiring a criminal. If the employer did not realize someone was a criminal upon hiring him or her, it is then assumed that the employer did not conduct a thorough pre-hire investigation.

A prime and current example of an employer knowingly hiring criminals deals with Uber. Uber, as of November of 2017, was under fire for hiring and retaining known criminals. After claims of harassment, drunk-driving, theft, and assault, amongst other things, an investigation was performed. Investigators found that the company knowingly hired 12 drivers with felony offenses, 17 with motor vehicle violations, three with drunk driving convictions, and 63 with licensing issues. The company was fined nearly $10 million.

Though Uber is an extreme example of negligent hiring practices, as the company knew about the convictions and violations and hired the drivers anyway, employers can still get in trouble for failing to follow through with standard hiring practices, such as performing background checks and calling references.

If a person passes his or her background check and references come back clean, the employer needs to use his or her discretion when deciding whether or not to retain the employee. For instance, if a customer complains about missing money but the employer does not investigate the complaint, the employer could be held liable. If one or more employees complain about the employee stealing but the employer keeps the one employee on regardless, he or she may be guilty of negligent retention.

Hire a Fort Lauderdale Business Litigation Lawyer to Help 

As a business owner, you have a duty to your customers to protect them, their confidential information, and their assets. If you hire an employee that violates that duty, you may be held financially and legally responsible. Retain the help of our skilled Fort Lauderdale business litigation attorneys at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A. We can help you navigate the legal process and come out the other end having to pay as little damages as possible.




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