By: Lindsey R. Harrison, Esq.
In Georgia, employers are required to exercise ordinary care in the selection of employees. This means that if an employer knew, or should have known, of an employee’s tendency to engage in certain behavior and that behavior results in harm to another while the employee is acting in the course and scope of his employment, the employer can be held liable for damages to the victim.
What qualifies as ordinary care depends upon the type of work that that the employee is being hired for. For example, an employer hiring a driver may need to conduct a background search of the applicant’s driving record, whereas an employer hiring a server would not need to do this. Both employers meet the standard of ordinary care, but the action that must be taken to meet the standard varies between them. Employers should take special precautions when hiring employees who will enter people’s homes, drive vehicles, or work with children.
The best way to avoid this type of lawsuit is to develop a uniform hiring policy that includes:
– Requiring all applicants to completely fill out their employment applications, including sections for employment history and criminal convictions;
– Question the potential employee about any gaps in his or her work history;
– Contact the applicant’s references prior to extending an offer;
– Hire only after a background check has been completed;
– Be consistent in your policies;
– Document your policies in writing; and
– Document the fact that your policies have been followed in each case.
For liability to attach, the negative pre-employment act must be of the same nature as the act which caused the harm to the victim. For instance, an employer who hires someone with a DUI wouldn’t be liable if that employee shot someone, but could be liable if the employee injures someone while driving under the influence of alcohol while in the course and scope of employment.
Taking additional precautions in the employee selection process both protects you from liability and helps to ensure that you find the best possible people for your business. Both are worthwhile reasons to take these additional steps.