Is the employer liable for theft by its employees?

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Employers should take extra care when leaving employees in vulnerable situations where temptation is at hand.

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A recent case (Brinks Global Services Inc and others v Ignox Ltd and others 2010) suggests that the employer can be liable where the employee effectively made the theft during the normal course of duties. 

So in a previous case (Heasman v Clarity Clearing Co Ltd 1987) it was held the cleaning company should not be liable for the making of expensive telephone calls by its cleaners when it is another company’s offices.  However, if say, a technician has to remove items for a car boot to carry out work and ‘fails’ to put them back then the employer could well find themselves liable.  If, however, the employee chose to open a glove box and remove, say, some CDs, and there was no good reason to open it, then the outcome may be different.  Clearly it is easier to sue the employer rather than the employee if the latter has no money.

The recommendation is therefore for employers to take extra care when leaving employees in vulnerable situations where temptation is at hand.

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