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Ethical and Criminal Responsibility: Danger Employee Essay

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Updated: May 3rd, 2020

Does an employer have an ethical obligation to take corrective or preventative action when the employer knows, or has reason to know, that the employee poses a danger to others?

According to the U.S. Civil Law, when sensing a potential source of a threat coming from a certain staff member, an employer may, though is not obliged to, take the corresponding preventive or corrective actions, such as dismiss or suspend them until the conflict is resolved and the source of a threat is removed successfully: “It is the policy of the Federal Government to promote the health and safety of its employees by acting to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking within the workplace” (United States Office of Personnel Management, 2013, p. 3).

The fact that the current law discourages an employer from taking an initiative in the above-mentioned scenario can be explained by the possibility of discrimination, which it may unleash (Mallor, Barnes, Langvardt, Prenkert, & McCrory, 2015). It should be noted, though, that, in case a tragedy ensues prior to the employer taking the corrective or preventive actions that seem reasonable in the specified scenario, the employer will be held responsible for any injury or damage inflicted on the people involved.

Does it matter whether the employer has irrefutable evidence that the employee poses a danger to others or whether the employer has only a reasonable suspicion to that effect?

Seeing that there is no regulation that enables an employer to undertake the corresponding measure, such as the dismissal or the suspension of the suspicious staff members, it can be assumed that the absence of evidence regarding the threat posed by the employee does have significance. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “an employer is limited in its ability to screen and reject a potential employee on the suspicion that the individual may become violent because of a mental or emotional impairment” (Lies, 2013, pp. 2–3).

It should be borne in mind, though, that the specified regulation concerns primarily the employees, who have certain physical or mental disabilities, and may be inapplicable to former offenders. The reasons for the above-mentioned ambiguity of the situation are related closely to the above-mentioned discrimination issue. As soon as the law allowing employers to fire staff members based solely on suspicions is introduced, solid premises for workplace discrimination, unfair judgments and numerous biases will be created.

If an employer has an ethical obligation to take corrective or preventative action, to whom does that obligation extend and what should that obligation entail?

According to the existing U.S. legislation, the termination of the employee, who has made any threatening remarks to any staff member of the company, has to be carried out by the Vice President for Human Resources (Mallor et al., 2015). However, in terms of reporting on the person, who makes threatening remarks to the employees or poses any other kind of threat to the rest of the staff, any member of the HR Department is eligible for reporting on the employee in question.

In other words, the obligation entails a detailed check of the employee’s record, the identification of the severity of the threat that they pose, as well as the damage that they have already done, if any has been spotted, the identification of the measures required to be taken, and the provision of the necessary actions, starting from a warning up to the dismissal of the employee. In the case in point, the head of the HR department should take the necessary preventative action, i.e., dismiss the employee.

Does the employer owe any ethical obligation to the employee in such situations?

Seeing that the employee in question has committed an assault at one of the staff members in the workplace, the employer has very few ethical obligations to the former. Particularly, the employer must make sure that a fair assessment of the situation should be conducted and that the person accused of the wrongful action should be treated in a fair manner. For instance, the employer should make sure that the employee in question is not harassed by other staff members. The employer is also liable to the staff members, who have been or may be affected by the actions of the offender. Unless the required course of actions is undertaken, the employer may be accused of negligence.

What potential torts are demonstrated in the scenario?

The scenario under consideration addresses several key torts. As it has been stressed above, the intentional tort deserves to be mentioned. Apart from the aforementioned regulation, the common law tort should be brought up (Cavico, Mujtaba, Muffler, & Samuel, 2013). Last but definitely not least, the Illinois Supreme Court, in Geise v. Phoenix Company of Chicago, Inc. tort (Geise v. Phoenix Company of Chicago, Inc., 1994) needs to be reminded of, as it renders the issue of workplace safety, in general, and the safety of the rest of the staff, in particular.

Reference List

Cavico, F. J., Mujtaba, B. G., Muffler, S. C., & Samuel, M. (2013). Social media and employment-at-will: Tort law and practical considerations for employees, managers and organizations. New Media and Mass Communication, 11(1), 25–41.

Geise V. Phoenix Company of Chicago, Inc. (1994).

Lies, M. (2013). Dealing with a hostile employee: Avoiding workplace violence. Professional Safety: Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers, 1(1), 1–4.

Mallor, J. P., Barnes, A. P., Langvardt, A. W., Prenkert, J. D., & McCrory, M. A., (2015). Business law: The ethical, global, and e-commerce environment (16th ed.).New York City, New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

United States Office of Personnel Management (2013). Guidance for agency-specific domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking policies. Washington, DC: United States Office of Personnel Management.

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