Being on the road all the time, Coleman who was employed by Software Inc. sold security equipment to businesses and bars. During one sales trip stole a ring from the mall, killed Jimmy a bar customer, and damaged the bar; immediately getting fired. After being fired, he took the client that he was meeting at the bar to dinner to apologize on behalf of the company. Coleman then punched John in the eye after they got into an argument, resulting in severe eye damage to John’s eye. Jimmy’s mother (his only heir), John, and Jimmy’s Poor-Man’s Bar (which was owned by five men, including Jimmy), sued Software Inc. for the damage caused by Coleman. Coleman sues Software Inc. for wrongful termination. Lastly, the jewelry store sued Software Inc. for the value of the ring.
Should Coleman win his wrongful termination suit with Software Inc.? Will Software Inc. be liable to the owners of Jimmy’s bar? What about Jimmy’s mom? Does the same law apply to both cases? Will John win his lawsuit against Software Inc. for his injuries? If you were Software Inc.’s CEO or head of HR, what policies would you implement to try to limit your liability for people such as Coleman?
Respondeat Superior says that, “an employer is liable for the tortious conduct of its employees or agents while they are acting within the scope of its authority.”(Cheeseman 475) Coleman went to the mall to buy a present for his wife, this was his own personal time, not Software Inc’s business. Therefore the jewelry store would not be able to recover judgement for the stolen ring from Software Inc.
Software Inc. would be liable to the owners of Jimmy’s bar and Jimmy’s mom. The employer is liable for acts done under his express or implied authority, to the same extent as if they were his own. “It is, therefore, the universally accepted rule that an employer is liable for personal injuries or the death of another person, or injury to another person’s property caused by his employee’s negligence, misconduct, misfeasance, or wrongful, improper, or unlawful acts, when done within the scope of his authority, whether the authority is express or implied, or inferred from the general course of business.”(Brick v. Snook) This makes the law applicable to both the case of Jimmy’s bar and his mom.
John had no knowledge that Coleman was no longer employed by Software Inc. Coleman also apologized to John on behalf of the company and took him to dinner and stated that “Software Inc. will pay the bill.” The company did not notify their customers of Coleman’s termination. This would give John reason to seek judgement. John would not win the judgement, because the acts that took place between John and Coleman were in result to personal reasons.
Software Inc. is not at all liable for wrongful termination of Coleman. The absence of an express public policy statute allows an employer or employee to terminate their employment relationship at any given time, as well as for any reason. This is held under the “at-will” employment doctrine under the common law. (Muhl 3) Coleman was not protected by any public policy as an employee.
If I was the head of HR at Software Inc., I would ensure that background and alcohol/drug tests were being administered to all new hired employees. There would also be guidelines in Software Inc’s employee handbook that prohibits consuming alcohol before company related meetings, which would also not be permitted to be held at any location where alcohol is being administered. I would also implement that psychological evaluations be done on employees that are involved in multiple violent actions while in the scope of Software Inc’s authority.
(Bricker v. Snook 1989 Ohio App. LEXIS 1076 (Ohio Ct. App., Mar. 30, 1989)
(Charles J. Muhl, “The Employment-At-Will Doctrine: Three Major Exceptions,” Monthly Labor Review (January 2001): 3-11)