Just a Lawyer in Lincoln's Hometown

October 3, 2017

Employers are Responsible

Filed under: Employment Law — Chuck @ 7:30 am

This case has been decided for quite some time now (although its only yesterday in “law time”), but the Seventh Circuit case of ANICICH v. HOME DEPOT came to mind after a potential client spoke to me. The Federal Court applied Illinois law: specifically ” Illinois law permits recovery from employers whose negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of their employees causes injury.” Unusual about this case is that the wrongful act of the bad employee took place away from the premises of the employer.

The Federal Court of Appeals found that the employer (actually joint employers) had a duty to protect its employee from the criminal acts of a supervisor, even away from the workplace. The supervisor in question had a history of sexually harassing employees and was ordered by the employer to take anger management classes. This requirement was never enforced. Nor did the employer remove supervisor of his supervisory responsibilities.

He then allegedly threatened the employee with firing or a reduction of hours if she refused to go with him on a non-business trip.  The employee agreed – and was  murdered and then raped when she refused to have a sexual relationship with him.

Ruling (by overruling the trial court’s dismissal of the case) in favor of the heirs of the employee, the Seventh Circuit said that it was quite clear that all employers have a duty to act reasonably in the hiring, supervising and retaining of employees. If they do not “act reasonably in the hiring, supervising and retaining of employees”, they may be liable to the employee effected by acts of the other employee – especially supervisory employees.

Although the opinion is very technical, the overarching message for employers is that they cannot ignore the safety of their employees when they have reason to know that other employees present a danger.

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