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Company not liable for employee who assaulted customer

A car dealership couldn’t be held liable in court for a salesman who sexually assaulted a customer, according to the Texas Court of Appeals.

The customer had brought her car in for service and was waiting for a shuttle bus to take her home. The salesman offered to drive her home in his personal car, and she claimed that along the way, he made improper advances. The dealership immediately fired the salesman.

The customer sued the dealership, but the court said the dealership had done nothing wrong.

The dealership hadn’t been negligent in hiring the salesman, it said, because it wasn’t aware of any indication that he might do something like this. Although there was some suggestion that he might have engaged in misconduct in the past, there was no evidence that he had ever engaged in sexual misconduct.

Further, although taking a customer home in lieu of a shuttle bus was within the salesman’s job description and furthered the dealership’s business, sexually assaulting a customer was definitely not within his job description and had nothing to do with his role as a salesman, the court said.

The case goes to show that you can go a long way toward protecting yourself if you conduct background checks for any employees who deal directly with customers and take prompt action once a problem arises.

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