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

We live in times which can be overly litigious to most people and it’s true we sue over the simplest and stupidest things at times. Generally, it is 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 and the injury it causes because of it.

“I was offended by his… I’m gonna sue!” We sue over the silliest things; just watch the judge shows on occasion. Remember McDonalds in the 90s being sued over coffee being too hot? In some cases it may be justified but in others… eh not so much.

Usually you and your security program are in front of a judge for one reason and one reason only, & it’s not social. It’s because someone got injured because of something your program did, or didn’t do. Neither one of those are good.

I am 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.


Negligent Hiring:

Yes, hiring the wrong person can literally put you and your company out of business or at the very least with a red mark at the end of the year. I’m sure you would agree that is not a good thing for your company or employees.

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… Add to this the potential for someone to be blackmailed into stealing or allowing you to be stolen from.


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

Up to being sued also. An employee, who throws a hissy fit, making threats and verbally abusing customers or co-workers, can lead you straight into court.

In Arizona we have a law that allows employers to inform potential new employers the bad information about a current or former employee, as long as it is given truthfully and without malice.

I don’t know any employers within the state that actually do this. Mainly because it is easier to say not eligible for rehire, than go into detail and defend the company in court when the employee decides to sue and whether the truth was given or not doesn’t matter.

This is where the new innumerable laws involving the hiring process can also come into play. 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 with hiring the wrong person.


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 the doors and gates
  • turning on exterior lights
  • turning machinery and electrical circuit breakers off or on
  • What about the alarm systems, fire and intrusion

In many cases of workplace violence and in other cases in which someone is assaulted, the charge of inadequate security is leveled at the company. 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 a burglary or assault is committed…, you can also rest assured that you will be held responsible.

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 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 a simulated camera.

The ONLY way to avoid being sued over inadequate security is ensure that your physical security program is in place and 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 worthless.


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 teasingly
  •  Not following up with security issues that could endanger employees lives
  •  Maintenance issues that may cause problems, again endangering employees life 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 lawyers will use in court to say just those three things.

When you look at the judgements that are passed down on almost a daily basis for these issues you can see how the money begins to pile up for companies of all sizes. From the hundreds of millions because of computer hacking paid to consumers from several retailers to the workplace violence incident in Philadelphia in 2010, $46M. 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 an employee, customer, or lawyer that will find a way to circumvent your program. But it never hurts to keep tightening the program, does it? or Twitter: @robertsollars2

                              I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear

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