Is an employer responsible for the actions of his employees? I think it would be reasonable to answer in the affirmative. If an employee makes a poor decision, ultimately the boss and the company will be asked to rectify the problem. Recently, a Starbucks employee told several police officers they would have to leave the store or sit elsewhere because a customer wasn’t comfortable having the police in the store. This caused a stir and made its rounds on social media. Starbucks, the company, answered for this employee’s actions.

What if the employer didn’t know what the employee was doing? I saw a news article about a police officer — a very bad police officer — who should, if guilty, go to jail for a very long time. He was allegedly planting drugs. People lost their liberties and much more. This is inexcusable. Is the employer responsible for the actions of this employee? Was it reasonable to have known or have had cause to know this employee was doing something wrong? If the employer should have known, I believe they are culpable for the employee’s actions. What if they had no possible way of knowing anything the employee’s actions? It’s reasonable that at some point the employer’s responsibility ceases.

What if the employee’s actions were done while off the clock and away from his workplace? What if an employee was in a public place and started a fight that gave someone a black eye? I think at this point everyone would agree that the employer had no way of knowing what the employee was doing. Furthermore, the employer has no responsibility over his employee while away from work. Therefore, it is logical to argue the employer has zero culpability based on his employee’s actions.

Now pretend you have an employee who is off the clock and away from work when he says, “I hate the cops and they should all burn in the afterlife.” No doubt your employee has a right to his opinion, no matter how terrible. But what if this employee was the Starbucks employee from the beginning of the column? Would it be appropriate for the employer to take some actions against this employee within the business realm because of the employee’s personal opinion? Absolutely. This employee has now shown a disdain for potential customers which will directly and negatively affect the business.

A couple of my lawyer friends would argue that each situation must be looked at individually and account for the totality of the circumstances. A simple one-size-fits-all answer will not suffice. I agree. In each and every situation there are details that are mundane but also incredibly important for gaining a complete understanding. The totality of the circumstances makes each situation unique.

Let me state that the individual who acts is definitely responsible. It’s the details that will allow us to appropriately assign additional responsibility should any exist.

Pretend you’re a businessman and one of your business associates has been participating in a despicable activity. Let’s say he allegedly was involved in sex trafficking. Would you have any reason to know this activity was going on? I am guessing your business associate was working hard to hide this part of his life from those around him. This is actually a real-life situation playing out in the news today.

I think the Republicans and Democrats have this wrong. Both have been gleefully making a guilt- by-association argument. This is a fallacy where someone asserts blame onto one person because of their association with a different person. The Republicans are trying to torpedo Bill Clinton and the Democrats are trying to implicate President Trump.

As I have shown above, there are valid reasons for assigning responsibility to more than one person, however, I have a hard time finding reason to assign responsibility onto Trump and Clinton without knowing the totality of the circumstances.

Scotty Anderson is a computer programmer who enjoys serving the community through various community-oriented service jobs.

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