Why Employers Must Be Responsible for Employees

A graphic of a man in a blue button up shirt illustrating a cyclical employer employee relationship in red marker

Why Employers Must Be Responsible for Employees

You might wonder how the actions of an employee and employer are connected. The employee stands in the shoes of his employer while on the job, and the employer benefits from the employee. But that also means the employer is at-risk for the actions of the employee when they are harmful. This includes situations as various as a car accident driving to and from a meeting, misconduct during a business dinner, or acts of medical negligence by a caregiver.  

If an individual caused you or a loved one harm during the course of their work duties, here’s what you need to know about holding both the individual and his or her employer civilly responsible in the state of Indiana.

Employer Liability for Employee Conduct

There are several reasons an employer may be considered partially or fully responsible for the negligence of their employees.

Risks of Doing Business: One of the risks of doing business is the cost of employee misconduct, negligence, or error. When an employee causes injury or harm as part of the course of business, the employer is responsible.

  • Example: If a pizza delivery guy crashes into you while rushing to a delivery,  the employer is responsible for that harm.

Careless Hiring: When background checks or other screening and onboarding are not conducted, the employer will bear responsibility for any harm that employee causes.

  • Example: If a health care system hires a caregiver with a history of abusing patients, the employer is responsible for future harm that individual causes to patients, especially if they don’t check the background of the employee.

Careless Retention: If an employee is not adequately supervised or retrained after poor performance, the employer can be considered responsible for harm.

  • Example: If a truck driver gets several tickets for unsafe driving and the fleet doesn’t address the issue, they will be considered responsible for future harm caused by the trucker’s misconduct.

These factors and others inform whether the individual or the business is responsible for an act of negligence.

In some situations, an employee may “frolic,” meaning they take actions during work hours or on company property that the employer hasn’t approved or instructed them to do. For instance, if someone uses a company car to drive on a personal road trip, any harm they cause in the vehicle would not be during the course of their work duties, so the employer would not likely be responsible, except in situations like the employee being on-call.

On the other hand, if an employer encourages an employee to go out for dinner or drinks after work hours with potential clients, they would be responsible for any actions of the employee.

These nuances and others are why it’s essential to talk to an experienced injury attorney any time you are harmed by negligence. That way the appropriate parties are held accountable under the full extent of the law.

Indiana Employer Liability Law

Under Indiana law, for an employer to be responsible for the actions of an employee, there first must be an employer-employee relationship. This means a company’s responsibility for the actions of an independent contractor is a different matter, though the business might still be responsible.

When an employee is acting in any way that furthers the employer’s interest, even in part, the employer is responsible for the employee’s actions. This is true in any profession.

For instance, in the case of Cox v. Evansville Police Department, on-duty police officer Martin Montgomery provided a ride home to a woman after responding to a domestic disturbance in which she was the victim. He reported to dispatch that he had cleared the run, but instead followed the woman into her apartment and sexually assaulted her three times. Not only was he convicted of criminal misconduct, his victim also filed a civil suit against the city police department because of the connection between the officer’s employment activities and criminal activity. This is just one example of how employers must be responsible for ensuring their employees wield power and carry out duties responsibly.

If you have been harmed by the negligence of an individual who was on-the-clock, on company property, or using a company car, you may wonder about your options for a day in court. Rather than wonder about your legal options, call Christie Farrell Lee & Bell for a free consultation and put top Indiana injury attorneys to work for you. From listening to your story to fighting for you in court, we’re your advocates.