California Supreme Court Rules Schools Liable for Sexually Abusive Teachers

In a ruling that will make school sex abuse lawsuits easier for California parents and students to file, the California Supreme Court has ruled that school districts can be held “vicariously liable” for the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of employees who are prone to sexually abusing students. California Supreme Court Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote the unanimous Supreme Court opinion for the case ‘C.A. a Minor, etc. v. WILLIAM S. HART UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT et al.’ that is available at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S188982.PDF.

The case involved the molestation of a 15-year-old boy by a female guidance counselor in the William S. Hart Union High School District in 2007. While the school district argued that it could not be held responsible for the woman’s actions since they were outside the scope of employment, the California Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. “Ample case authority establishes that school personnel owe students under their supervision a protective duty of ordinary care, for breach of which the school district may be held vicariously liable,” wrote Werdegar.

The California Supreme Court ruled that school sex abuse lawsuits were permitted when administrators knew – or should have known – about an employee’s abusive behaviors, yet still negligently hired, retained, or supervised the employee. The court held that administrators need to take reasonable measures to protect students from foreseeable injuries – even those done by third parties – since school districts, like most employers, are expected to exercise reasonable care to avoid hiring or retaining employees too unfit, unqualified, or dangerous for their jobs.

“The ruling underscores the importance of schools exercising reasonable care in the selection and supervision of teachers and staff which, of course, includes hiring,” says Attorney Lester Rosen, CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ “Most school districts already have a legal responsibility to do background checks, typically through fingerprint checks. However, given the liability issues raised by this new case, schools may need to reassess their entire hiring process in order to demonstrate due diligence in hiring.”

To learn how to implement a safe hiring program, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.ESRcheck.com or call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.

Sources:
http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S188982.PDF.
http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/mainCaseScreen.cfm?dist=0&doc_id=1964838&doc_no=S188982.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM – provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com.