I work in a store. A customer made a purchase. But had another bottle in his hand that he didn't put on the counter for me to scan. I asked if he had already paid for it. He tried to pick a fight saying I'm accusing him of theft and he wants to fight me outside. He held up the line and disrupted other customers. I told management about the incident and they didn't care. I asked if we could review the surveillance video to get a picture of the guy, they said no. There were 2 of us scheduled to work at the time, though my coworker was doing work in another room.

Was the employer negligent in this example?

As an employee, is it ever implied that a certain amount of effort goes into safeguarding the assets of the employer? I get that I wasn't hired as security, but asking if he remembered to pay seemed like my job. As an extreme example, if someone I don't recognize walks in, grabs the laptop and walks out, would an employee be negligent if they sat their watching, did nothing and didn't report it?

1 Answer 1


Does an employee have any responsibility to protect company assets?

Yes. An employee is an agent of their employer and they are obliged to act in the best interests of their employer. It is not in their interest to have their stuff stolen or damaged. However, it is also not in their interests to have their employees damaged - that leads to lost productivity, workers compensation payments, negligence suits, and, worst of all, paperwork.

Was the employer negligent in this example?

No. Because only the employer was damaged. To be negligent, you have to damage someone else. Cutting off your own finger is careless: it has to be someone else’s finger to (possibly) be negligent.

In any event, businesses that deal with products expect and allow for a certain amount of “wastage”: things that get lost, stolen, spoilt, or damaged. Most take efforts to reduce it but at a certain point, the cost of further reduction is more than the amount saved.

However, your employer is doing things that might expose them to a lot of liability.

As an employee, is it ever implied that a certain amount of effort goes into safeguarding the assets of the employer?

Yes, but for an employer it is extremely unwise to make this implicit rather than explicit.

A prudent employer should have given you specific training in what to do if you suspect shoplifting. This should include what actually constitutes reasonable suspicion, whether to engage with the suspect or just let it slide, what to say and how to say it, and how to deescalate an inflammatory situation.

Consider: what if the customer had just decided to break your nose then and there (or worse, if you had broken his). The employer is responsible for that and it will cost a lot more than a bottle of most things sold in a store - even perfume is only a few hundred dollars at most. For a soft drink or a beer? That’s not even a rounding error.

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