Holding An Employer Liable For Hiring and Retaining Employees Who Cause Injury to Others
Employers in Georgia have a legal obligation to hire competent employees. Employers have a concurrent duty to fire employees who later become incompetent or dangerous. The safety of the public requires employers to make sure they have not hired workers who have a propensity to injure others. If you suffered injuries at the hands of an employee, or you have a loved one who was killed by an employee, the company who employed that individual might be liable to you for damages.
The legal theories of negligent hiring and negligent retention are derived from Georgia statutes. Georgia Code §34-7-20 obligates a potential employer to use ordinary caution when hiring someone. Discharging this duty requires an employer to be reasonable, i.e. act as the normally prudent person would act under the same or similar circumstances during the hiring process and making the hiring decision. Section 34-7-20 also imposes a duty on an employer to discharge an employee whom the employer later learns is not competent for the position.
What actions are reasonable for the potential employer to take necessarily turn on the facts of the individual case. If the employer learns that the employee could be a danger to the general public or fellow employees, the employer has no choice but to dismiss the employee. The failure to discharge an employee who subsequently injures another is called negligent retention. An employer is liable to an injured party for damages if the employer ignored the risk of harm caused to other by negligent retention of the employee.
The question of whether the employer is liable for someone's injuries caused by an employee boils down to the whether the employer could reasonably foresee the damage caused by the employee to the victim. In Georgia, foreseeability comes down to the employer's knowledge. An employer will be liable for negligent hiring or negligent retention if the employer knew, or through the exercise of ordinary care, should have known that the employee was not competent for the position.
Georgia law does not require that the employer knows with absolute certainty that something might happen. The claimant can show that the employee had certain "tendencies to engage in certain behavior" which negated his or her competence as an employee.
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