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Employers who hire an employee who is unfit for the job, or who is dangerous or violent, may face liability for negligent hiring if they fail to exercise reasonable care in the hiring process, and this negligence results in an injury to another. The main defense against a negligent hiring claim is to conduct a thorough background check on prospective employees, which most likely includes contacting one or more of the applicant’s former employers. Those former employers, however, may be reluctant to say too much about a former employee, especially when the material they have to convey is negative. Former employers fear that they may be sued for defamation by a former employee. Defamation involves publishing in written form (libel) or orally (slander) defamatory information which tends to harm a person’s reputation. While truth is a defense to a defamation lawsuit, some of the information an employer may want to convey may be difficult to defend in court as “true” when it is based on a subjective opinion about a person’s performance, personality, or work habits.
Rather than face this risk, many company’s adopt a policy about not giving referrals regarding former employers. Some companies will only confirm that a former employee did or did not work there and give the dates of employment and job title; they will not even state whether the employee quit or was fired and why. The problem here is that they run the risk of giving a negligent referral. By withholding important information, the former employer could be “passing along” a dangerous employee to another workplace. A company’s old employee does not just become “someone else’s problem” once he or she is let go. If a company gives a negligent referral by lying about a former employee or failing to provide important information that the company should know could reasonably lead to an injury at another workplace, and an injury does result, the company could find itself facing liability both to the second company as well as to any individual who was harmed.
If you were harmed as an individual by another employee’s dangerous actions, whether negligent or intentional, you may have a variety of legal claims against the employee, your employer, or even a former employer of the dangerous employee. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as well as money damages in a civil lawsuit. At Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C., we leave no stone unturned in working to get you the most compensation available from all your sources for your personal injury. If you have suffered a workplace injury at the hands of a fellow employee, contact our office to discuss your options in obtaining compensation for your injuries.