What do you do when a vendor who is on your premises to provide a service, such as a vendor that delivers office supplies, or a training consultant hired to provide services to your organization, causes problems in your workplace?
Most employers may take the position that because the vendor is not on their payroll, that it’s not the company’s problem. According to Edward Harold with Fisher & Phillips, LLC, even if the offender is not your employee, it’s more of a problem for your company than you may think.
You have a legal obligation to your own employees to protect them from misconduct in the workplace; even if the offender is not your employee. The excerpt of this very informative article is below.
You can read the full article here.
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The natural reaction to any vendor employee issue is to notify the vendor of the problem and perhaps demand they assign a different employee to service the store. “Their employee, their problem,” is the idea. But what many managers do not realize is that errors and miscommunications in reporting vendor employee misconduct can result in liability from the vendor’s employee.
Even accurate truthful communications can bring lawsuits. Employees who lose their jobs because of such reports can sometimes sue the reporting party under tort law for claims such as defamation and intentional interference with a contract. On the other hand, failing to address vendor employee misconduct can create liability from your own employees.
Given these potentially competing concerns, is there a way you can craft a policy for handling vendor misconduct that allows you to comply with your obligations to your own employees while minimizing the risk of a third-party suit? The answer is yes.
Obligations To Your Own Employees
An employer’s obligation to misconduct by a vendor’s employees arises most often in the obligation to provide a work environment free from harassment and discrimination. The regulations under Title VII explain “An employer may also be responsible for the acts of non-employees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the workplace, where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
The EEOC “will consider the extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of such non-employees.” Thus, under the EEOC’s standards, an employer is liable if it had the means to end the harassment and failed to do so.
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