Simply put, negligent hiring is the failure on the part of an employer to use reasonable care in the selection of new employees, which results in harm to an innocent third party – like another employee.
Now, what constitutes reasonable care? Well, it’s not the level of care the employer thinks is reasonable. From a legal standpoint, reasonable care is that degree of care a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under the same circumstances to avoid putting innocent third parties at risk of harm. Another important word in that last sentence is “harm.” What does “harm” mean? Is it just physical harm? Nope! “Harm” within this context can mean financial harm, harming a customer by producing a defective product, or even harming another person’s reputation and good name in the marketplace.
Is there a uniform standard of care that will apply to every position an employer needs to fill? Nope! The risk of harm will vary according to the type of position. For example, a higher standard of care is required if you’re hiring an airplane pilot than if you’re hiring a fry cook.
To illustrate what can happen, here’s a real-life example of what can happen when reasonable care isn’t used. A high school was sued for negligent hiring by the parents of a child who was molested by a teacher. Even though the teacher was fired, parents sued the school claiming the school had failed to use reasonable care in the hiring process. The negligence was based on the fact that the teacher, as it turned out, had a prior conviction of child molestation in another state, which the school could have easily uncovered had reasonable care been used – the school hadn’t checked anything! A criminal national data base check, which includes the sex offender registry, could have easily and inexpensively been done for less than twenty bucks! The court awarded the parents over a million dollars as a result of the school’s failure to use reasonable care in the hiring process. This is a perfect example of negligent hiring.