Do you know…how your security program can be sued?

Written by Robert D. Sollars

Living in overly litigious times, suing over the stupidest things, we should know better and the avoidance issues. Generally, it is a company’s being sued because they supposedly have deep pockets and can afford it. This with no regard to the rising cost of their products or the stress from low-income families that it causes.

“I’m gonna get mine because they owe it to ME!”

“They owe me for screwing me over with that last —- I bought so…”

“I was offended by their… I’m gonna sue!”

“They don’t treat me right in there so, I’m gonna be rich.”

Along with many, many other inane comments & remarks, designed to milk money out of them.

Remember McDonald’s’ in the 90s being sued over coffee being too hot, at the drive-thru window? In some cases, the lawsuit may be justified, and as with McDonald’s…eh, not so much, in others… Yes, they are justified, because of stupidity or ignorance of the company/employees.

Usually you, as the representative of the program, along with your security programs, policies, & procedures are in front of a judge for one reason and one reason only. And it’s never social. It’s because someone got injured because of something your program did or didn’t do, and neither will be good, with respect to publicity or financial loss, not to mention that your programs may be under the microscope for an extended time.

I’m going to attempt to boil down the three areas’ in which a company can be sued over security. Unfortunately, there will be numerous other factors in the way these areas are presented to a court. However, these three areas are the ones that really count when it comes down to it if you can decipher the legalistic language:

  • Negligent Hiring

Hiring the wrong individual can put your entire organization at risk. If you hire someone with a violent past and they assault a co-worker, customer, or vendor… Add to this the potential for someone to be blackmailed into stealing or allowing you to be stolen from, because of ‘hiding’ their criminal past…

If you employ someone that has had problems at other jobs, then you open yourself

Up to being sued. An employee, who throws hissy fits, making threats, and verbally abusing others, can lead you straight into court. It’s too easy for a past employer to ignore a potential problem, then to tell a new employer the issues with that individual

Since the financial crisis of 2008, there have been innumerable laws passed for employment, which really hinder the right of a company to not hire problems. Not being able to ask salary history, not asking about convictions, credit history and etc. open the company up to a myriad of potential issues, such as violence, theft or embezzlement, fraud, and etc.

  • Inadequate Security

Do you have security officers, contracted or proprietary, on-site? If not, who is responsible for securing the facility when it closes down or after normal business hours? Items such as:

  • locking all entry points to the facility.
  • turning on exterior lights, if necessary.
  • turning machinery and electrical circuit breakers off or on, or trusting the lowly trained minions to do so before leaving the building?
  • What about the alarm systems, fire, and intrusion?

In many cases of workplace violence (WPV), the charge of inadequate security is leveled. If an employee is assaulted in the parking lot and the gate was found to be broken or the lighting inadequate…

Likewise, if the maintenance department of an apartment complex leaves a ladder propped against a building and burglary or assault is committed, by using that ladder…you can also rest assured that you will be held responsible, as well as the maintenance worker & the property owner.

Inadequate security also extends to not having security officers, alarms, surveillance, and other devices in the area. Please don’t believe that simulated devices, and warning signs about security systems, will save you from the court. They can and will, open you up to more lawsuits than you might expect. Think of an assault where the victim thought a camera was filming the assault but it was only simulated.

Now, with the work-at-home craze created by the virus, you as the security professional have even more to worry about with inadequate security. Under the General Duty Clause in OSHA, the company MUST provide the means for the employees to protect themselves, and subsequently their families since they are actively engaged with working at home.

The ONLY way to avoid being sued over inadequate security is to ensure that your physical security program, which obviously includes differing areas for the home office, is operational & strong. That takes in a lot of thought, time, and possibly resources but in the long run, it’s worth it.

Another area that falls into this arena is training. If the individuals responsible for security in your business, whether they be officers, guards, or a regular employee who’s charged with it, doesn’t know what they’re doing then you could be in deep. These people have to be trained in proper techniques or they are as worthless as a tree stump or boobs on a boar.

  • Inadequate Supervision

If you have an employee that is being bullied, harassed, threatened, or actually assaulted and they have informed the supervisor/manager and nothing has been done, then…This lack of adequate supervision can take several forms. Just like many of the other ways discussed above, there can be hundreds of excuses for suing or filing a grievance, over supervisory conduct or lack thereof, here are just a few of them.

  •  The supervisor not being around when they are supposed to be to encourage or answer important questions. about the job being performed
  •  Not following up on complaints about the bullying, harassment, threats, and assaults (verbal or physical).
  •  Not stopping the above issues if observed.
  •  Joining in with the harassment or bullying, even if it is meant good-naturedly.
  •  Not following up with security issues, which there can be a myriad of, that could endanger lives, both at the facility/office and of course in the home.
  •  Maintenance issues that may cause problems, again endangering lives and health.
  •  Personnel or personal problems with employees.

As with training and computer security budgets, the security department can easily be sued over any number of issues. The above issues are the umbrella coverage for the hundreds of terms attorneys will use in court.

 

When you look at the judgments that are passed down on almost a daily basis for these issues you can see how the money begins to be flushed down the toilet for companies of all sizes. From the hundreds of millions because of computer hacking paid to consumers from several retailers to the WPV incident in Philadelphia in 2010, $46M for only two families. The potential costs far outweigh the costs of ensuring that you are as perfect as you can be.

Will it be totally perfect and litigation proof? Absolutely never. There will always be someone, or a court judge, who will find a way to circumvent your program. But it never hurts to keep tightening It, does it, and looking for better responses and ways to secure your facilities/homes?

 

It happens to Anyone…Any Time… Anywhere… For any Reason

I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear

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Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars

 

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