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Employer & Negligence

Posted on:12/12/2015
An employer owes a duty of care to each of his employees while they are in the course of their employment. An employer must provide and maintain a safe place of work and overall a safe work environment.

Negligence is defined as careless conduct injuring another. Employers should recognize that the duty of care is of a personal nature. In other words, the duty is owned to each employee and not to the workforce as a whole. Thus in a negligence lawsuit filed by an employee against the employer the court will examine the employee’s circumstances and what could be reasonably expected of the employer in the particular case.


In actions for negligence, the legal concepts of causation and foreseeability are significant. It is for the employee to establish that the injury is a result of work related circumstances and that the employer should have reasonably foreseen the resultant injury.


The burden of proof falls in a negligence lawsuit falls on the employee. The employee must prove that the employer was at fault or to blame. Once the employee has established a breach of duty by the employer, it must be shown that this breach caused or materially contributed to the injury suffered.


Employees and Psychiatric Injury


In case of a psychiatric injury caused by work, it is not sufficient to show that the harm was caused by the work alone. The claimant must prove the employer’s failure to take appropriate action in the light of the fact that psychiatric injury to the claimant was reasonably foreseeable.


Where there is more than one cause of the psychiatric injury, for example home related circumstances, the employer will be held liable only for that the proportion of the harm suffered by the employee which can attributable to the wrongdoing of the employer such as failure to take action.


In a claim for psychiatric injury, when assessing damages, the court will consider any pre-existing condition, disorder or vulnerability and the possibility that the claimant would have suffered some form and level of psychiatric injury irrespective of the breach of duty by the employer.


Establishing psychiatric injury requires some form of assessment and analysis by specialists with a view to identifying the causes, both direct and indirect, of the injury. Individual causes of psychiatric injury in the workplace can be associated with the employee’s role in the organization, career development or lack of it, the organizational structure and climate, factors intrinsic to the job, relationships within the workplace and job or classic home/work conflict situation.


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