Company Liability for Employee Actions

Who is responsible when an employee does something wrong while on the job? This is a problem that’s current in the news with the George Floyd killing by a police officer in Minneapolis.

By the principle of respondeat superior, the employer should be responsible along with the employee. A company is always held responsible for bad acts of its employees. Infractions may range from slanderous speech and libelous posts on social media, to inappropriate aggression, or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or even death.

So don’t let your employees act irresponsibly, and have a plan for how you will handle the situation if any one of them does cross the line. Evidence of such a plan can help your company avoid criminal prosecution (even though it might reap severe retribution in the court of public opinion).

The theory behind the rule of respondeat superior (a principle in English common law that dates back hundreds of years) is that holding employers  responsible for bad hiring decisions that result in harm to the public will force employers to be more careful in their selection and screening of employees.

I have not researched Minnesota law, but sometimes there are statutes that excuse governments from liability, so that a city is not held responsible for the acts of its police department. What do you think? Should local governments and the city officials be held to the same standards that companies are, that is that the city administration be responsible for the bad actions of city employees, bad cops in particular?

Of course there is always the political solution: Vote the a–holes out!