Negligent hiring claims are preventable if employers do their job when ensuring employees and customers have a well-organized and safe work environment. Within a work environment, employees and customer have a right to a reasonable expectation they will not be injured or harmed.

If a hiring decision results in a worker injuring or harming a customer, coworker or any individual in contact with the employee through work, the employer can be charged with negligent hiring.

Negligent hiring claims are made when filers believe the employer should have known about the employee’s background of violent behavior. In these claims, the filer attempts to prove the injurious behavior was to be expected based on past behavior demonstrating the employee was dangerous or untrustworthy.

Employers are most vulnerable to negligent hiring claims if they fail to do the following:
• Conduct criminal background checks on potential employees;
• Check employment and personal references;
• Check employment history and speak with former supervisors;
• Validate college degrees;
• Perform drug screening tests in certain industries including hazardous manufacturing jobs;
• Perform physicals in jobs such as truck driving or any position where strenuous activity is involved;
• Perform credit checks for jobs involving money;
• Check driving records for occupations including truck driving or any job requiring the use of company cars or machinery.

What Makes an Employer Liable?
An increasing number of states have laws about what makes an employer a potential target for a negligent hiring lawsuit including:
• The person injuring or harming another person must be employed by the firm;
• The employee was guilty of causing harm doing damage to, or injuring the complaining party;
• The employer had the knowledge of the propensity of the employee to do harm;
• The employer was negligent in hiring the employee by not exercising appropriate background checks that would have revealed the employee’s propensity for harm.

Examples of Potential Negligent Hiring Claims
Following are examples of the types of claims that have been filed and won against employers:
• An employee rapes a coworker. On review, it is discovered the employee is a registered sex offender who has served prison time. The employer was liable because this information was discoverable through effective background checks.
• An employee assaults his boss sending him to the hospital with severe injuries. When reviewed, the employer is found not to have checked employment references where the employer would have discovered that two prior employers would not rehire him. A criminal background check would have revealed felony offenses.
• A temporary agency that claimed to do thorough background checking placed an employee as a controller in a financial office. A few months later, the firm discovered the temp employee had embezzled thousands of dollars.

While employers must conduct diligent background checks, they must also perform fair and nondiscriminatory checks. Background checks of people who are candidates for the same job should always be the same.

To avoid potential losses of productivity, damaged reputation and financial damages assigned by courts, employers need to do thorough background checks. You need to know who you are hiring before they potentially injure your employees or customers in any way.