When acting on behalf of the business, the employer is typically liable for any acts that the employee takes. There are, however, instances where employee liability for actions taken can fall on the individual.
1. Harassment and Discrimination. Supervisors can be exposed to personal liability when they are party to the creating of a hostile work environment or condition job-related promotions or benefits on sexual activity. Harassment lawsuits against an employer can include claims against an individual.
2. Wrongful Discharge Claims. Some state courts have held individuals liable for employment-related claims, even when the supervisor was acting on behalf of the company. Supervisor training should include instructions covering making statements about job security to employees, handling termination meetings, giving inaccurate performance reviews and applying progressive disciplinary actions consistently and fairly.
3. Intentional Illegal Acts. Employees and supervisors may be held personally liable in cases of assault, battery, defamation, interfering with contracts, invasion of privacy or false imprisonment.
Understanding Liability Risks
An official employee handbook and policy manual can provide detailed examples about improper acts and practices by providing employees with specifics about types of behaviors that are prohibited. Policies can also describe under what circumstances personal employee liability begins. Prior notice may also serve to protect the company against employee lawsuits in the future.