What Is Negligent Hiring?

Negligent Hiring

Negligent hiring is a legal concept that holds employers liable for the actions of their employees when the employer knew or should have known that the employee posed a risk to others. It occurs when an employer fails to exercise reasonable care in the hiring process, resulting in the employment of an individual who subsequently causes harm to others, such as coworkers, customers, or the general public.

Key Aspects of Negligent Hiring

1. Duty of Care: Employers have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in the hiring process to ensure that they do not hire individuals who pose a foreseeable risk of harm to others. This duty extends to all stages of the hiring process, including recruitment, screening, interviewing, and background checks.

2. Foreseeable Risk: Negligent hiring claims arise when an employee's actions that cause harm were reasonably foreseeable based on the employee's background, qualifications, or prior conduct. This means that the employer should have been aware of red flags or warning signs that indicated the employee's potential for harmful behavior.

3. Inadequate Screening: Negligent hiring often involves allegations that the employer failed to conduct adequate screening or background checks on the employee prior to hiring. This may include failing to verify employment history, educational credentials, professional licenses, or criminal records when such checks are warranted based on the nature of the job.

4. Failure to Investigate: Employers may be held liable for negligent hiring if they fail to investigate potential warning signs or red flags that come to their attention during the hiring process. For example, if an applicant discloses a prior criminal conviction or termination from a previous job, the employer has a duty to investigate further to determine if the applicant poses a risk to others.

5. Causation and Damages: To establish a claim of negligent hiring, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the employer's failure to exercise reasonable care in the hiring process directly caused the harm suffered by the plaintiff. This may include physical injuries, emotional distress, financial losses, or other damages.

Examples of Negligent Hiring

  • Hiring a delivery driver without conducting a background check that would have revealed a history of reckless driving or DUI convictions
  • Employing a childcare worker without verifying their credentials or checking for prior complaints of child abuse or neglect
  • Failing to investigate an applicant's disclosure of a prior termination for violent behavior in a previous job

Preventing Negligent Hiring

To minimize the risk of negligent hiring claims, employers should:

1. Develop and consistently apply a comprehensive hiring process that includes thorough screening, background checks, and reference checks as appropriate for the position.

2. Establish clear job descriptions and selection criteria that outline the necessary qualifications, skills, and experience for each position.

3. Use standardized interview questions and evaluation criteria to ensure fair and consistent treatment of all applicants.

4. Verify the accuracy and completeness of information provided by applicants, including employment history, educational credentials, and professional licenses.

5. Conduct criminal background checks and other relevant screenings as permitted by law and appropriate for the position.

6. Investigate any red flags or discrepancies that arise during the hiring process, such as gaps in employment history or inconsistencies in information provided by the applicant.

7. Document the hiring process, including the reasons for the selection or rejection of each applicant, to demonstrate due diligence and compliance with legal requirements.

8. Provide ongoing training and supervision to employees to ensure compliance with workplace policies and standards of conduct.

Negligent hiring claims can result in significant legal and financial consequences for employers, as well as reputational damage and loss of trust among employees and customers. By implementing robust hiring practices and exercising reasonable care in the selection and screening of employees, employers can mitigate the risk of negligent hiring claims and create a safer and more productive work environment for all.