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Workplace Theft – Who’s Liable?

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Question: If one of your employees steals from a customer, who’s liable? As a general principle, employers are responsible for the actions of their employees. The fancy phrase is “respondent superior,” which means one is responsible for the acts of their agents. 
Answer: No employer authorizes their employees to commit theft, so is an employer legally liable for employee theft? The argument can be made that the employee can be held liable, but not the employer, because the employee is not the employer’s agent for purposes of committing theft. It may be appropriate in a given case to involve law enforcement. Having adequate insurance in place to cover employee theft is worth considering. As a practical matter, we can expect that a customer will look to the contractor to assume responsibility for employee theft, just as a customer will anticipate that damage caused by an employee will be the contractor’s responsibility. 

Brooke Duncan

Posted In: Legal, Management, People Management, Polices & Procedures, Print Edition

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