How an Employee Handbook Can Limit Employer Liability
Employers face potential liability for any action committed by workers within the scope of employment. This opens the door to all types of claims against an employer, simply based on the actions of its employees. Employers can, however, mitigate this risk by putting a comprehensive infrastructure in place to govern acceptable employee conduct. An experienced Houston business attorney can help business owners identify those structures that will best protect their particular businesses.
Defining the Scope of Employment
Because plaintiffs can hold employers liable for actions committed within the scope of a worker’s employment, employers must clearly define the scope of employment. This is where an employee handbook can prevent liability. Employee handbooks that clearly govern job duties, acceptable conduct, and company policies can help businesses narrowly define what actions are within the scope of a worker’s employment. This is particularly important when an employee’s duties carry a high risk of liability. For example, a bouncer at a nightclub may attempt to remove a patron with physical force. If the bouncer injures the patron, the club can face liability for the actions of its bouncer. If, on the other hand, the club had an expressed, written policy that prohibited bouncers from using physical force, the club may defend itself on the grounds that the bouncer acted outside the scope of employment.
Enforcing the Scope of Employment
To fully access the protections of a written employment policy, the employer must actually enforce that policy. In the above example, the nightclub would find it difficult to claim that it didn’t allow physical force if it allowed other bouncers to use physical force to remove patrons on other occasions. The employer, then, must put processes in place to enforce written employment policies. A human resources department can prove effective at achieving this goal. A small business that cannot hire a full-time or dedicated human resources officer still needs a manager or owner accountable for enforcing employment policies. An experienced attorney can help.
When creating written employment policies, consider the areas in which your business will face the greatest liability risks. Heavy machinery, dangerous chemicals, and company vehicles are frequent sources of workplace injuries. In an office environment, businesses may face liability for sexual harassment or discrimination claims. Carefully evaluate and consider all of these risks when drafting an employee handbook.
Protect Your Company’s Assets With Comprehensive Planning
Businesses—even limited liability companies—face liability in their daily operations. Luckily, comprehensive risk management strategies and employee policies can mitigate these risks. For more than 25 years, Houston business owners have trusted attorney Andrew Weisblatt to shield them from liability. The Weisblatt Law Firm offers risk management and human resources consulting to businesses of all sizes. Call (713) 352-0847 or write us through our online contact form to schedule your free phone consultation with an experienced Texas business attorney today.