Has an employee acted negligently and caused the company some type of damage? If so, as an employer you may wonder what your recourse could be. While most employers understand that they have the right — or perhaps obligation — to terminate the person's employment, there are times when it may be necessary to sue the ex-employee as well.
If you're considering civil litigation, how can you decide if it's the right course of action? Here are a few questions to answer.
Did the Employee Act Egregiously?
Negligent acts, such as working while intoxicated or intentional failure to perform the job function, are usually handled with termination so that the employer can move on. Pursuing civil litigation over such an act should never be the company's first response or default reaction. Carefully consider the time and money you'll need to put into the case and weigh it against the harm that was caused.
Was the Company Damaged?
If the company suffered damage from the negligent act(s), it may need compensation in order to recover and rebuild. This damage could be physical — such as if the employee let a burst pipe fill the office with floodwater — or it could be reputation damage if negligence caused injury to customers. In either case, termination of the employee doesn't help your company get its money back — but civil damages could.
How Are Other Employees Involved?
Don't overlook the effect a lawsuit could have on other workers. If other employees knew about the negligence or were harmed by it, a company that fails to take action may be seen as unsympathetic to employees or an employer who doesn't care. On the other hand, if pursuing a former employee for money could harm the company's reputation as an employer, it may be worth settling some other way.
Can You Collect Damages?
Before spending time and money on a court case, make sure that there is something to collect if you win. Your attorney can help research whether the employee or another party can even pay damages from their own finances. If actually getting compensation may not be possible, the victory could wind up merely being symbolic. This may be enough in some cases, though.
How Strong Is Your Case?
Finally, assess how strong your case really is. This should be done in consultation with an experienced civil litigation lawyer who knows what it takes to win a civil case. No matter how strongly you feel about what the employee did, a weak case may not be worth fighting over. A strong one, though, may convince you that it's the right path to take.
As your company considers these five questions, the best choice will likely start to emerge. And the best way to reach this conclusion quickly and painlessly is to work with a civil litigation attorney in your area. Make an appointment today to learn more about your particular case.