A Las Vegas restaurant owner who was stabbed last year by a DoorDash delivery driver has filed suit against the delivery service and claimed the company was negligent in hiring a felon with a history of mental illness and violence. According to Fabio Coppola, the driver, Mackie Lee Allen, became hostile when Coppola tapped on his car window to let him know the order was ready. Allen responded by slashing him with a pocket knife.
The lawsuit holds DoorDash responsible for their “flawed background check policy” that failed to protect consumers and restaurant workers who do business with the company. Employers can be held liable for negligent hiring practices when they knew or should have known that an individual had a reasonable propensity to harm members of the workforce or the general public. This is known as negligent hiring.
Allen had previous felony convictions in Las Vegas for forgery, attempted robbery and drug conspiracy as far back as 2010. In one case, the judge required Allen to obtain a formal mental health evaluation. Had the proper search been performed, robbery and drug conspiracy would certainly be convictions that DoorDash should have carefully weighed before hiring.
Negligent hiring is an issue for employers due to the concept of respondeat superior, or the legal principle that the injury would not have happened if the employer had not placed the employee in the position that led to the injury. Without a background check program before hiring and periodic investigations of employees after employed, any business could pay a steep price for the actions of an uninvestigated employee.
A representative from DoorDash declined to make a comment about the lawsuit, but did offer that DoorDash dismissed Allen for disobeying the DoorDash code of conduct. The lawsuit filed against DoorDash maintains that Allen was a DoorDash employee and not an independent contractor. It also alleges that the service used to complete checks only reviewed 7 years of criminal history—and Allen was in prison for those years.
How can your business be protected? Ensure that your background check policy specifically lists all types of convictions that could prohibit an individual from being accepted into your workforce. The job description for each position should also include why a criminal conviction could prevent an individual from moving along in the hiring process. We have written before about the importance of a job description.
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has since 1999 been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs. This post does not constitute legal advice. Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm. Always contact competent employment legal counsel. Mr. Randisi can be contacted by phone at 410.494.0232 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or the website at randisiandassociates.com