External Workforce

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:37 pm

It’s 2 p.m., and you have 10 service people on the road. You assume that they are all making their assigned calls and taking care of your customers. But how can you be sure they are performing their responsibilities within their scope of employment?

As your agents, they represent your company to your customers and to the general public. Your company’s name is on the truck and their uniforms. What they do and how they do it directly impacts your current and future business, as well as your long-term profitability.

In this age of GPS (Global Positioning System) and high-speed digital communication, it is easy to track and contact your employees in the field. However, these electronic, state-of-the-art tools do not reduce risk; they just permit you to monitor your employees.

Under the legal concept of “respondeat superior,” you are responsible for the actions of your employees as part of the normal course of business. The job description and their job scope set the parameters of the responsibilities, authority and accountability.

As an owner/manager, you need to ensure that your employees are not operating outside their scope of employment. If they do so and you do not take action to “rein them in,” you are expanding your company’s potential liability.

The question before us is how do I reduce the risk to my firm? Here are 10 steps that you can take that will assist in reducing the level of risk to you and your insurance carrier.

1.    Review the established work rules, job description and scope on a regular basis and adjust them accordingly.

2.    Randomly contact customers and ask them to rate the service, the behavior of the service person and his or her professionalism. This gives you an opportunity to speak with the employee and reinforce the positive behavior and correct any negative behaviors.

3.    Have one or more field supervisors who visit your accounts (if you have set locations, i.e., a cleaning company) to check on the service levels and to review performance with the customer. This option permits the company providing the service to get direct feedback on the performance of their employees.

4.    Maintain contact with your service staff by contacting them using two-way technologies to check the status of an assigned job.

5.    When you have a fleet of vehicles, you can annually or semi-annually review the driving records of your drivers.

6.    Establish a policy requiring the employee to promptly notify the company of any violations. It is possible that they might have received a citation for speeding or unsafe operation of a personal motor vehicle. The DMV in Wisconsin offers a fee-based service that will notify your company of a change in the individual’s driving record. It is suggested that you work closely with your agent or risk manager to assess potential risks ahead of time.

7.    It may be in the best interests of the company to institute a random drug-testing program for all service people to reduce the risk of a vehicle or a work related accident.

8.    You may wish to consider requiring that all company vehicles be returned to the workplace each evening; this would prevent employees from using your vehicle for their personal use.

9.    Take action. It is important that once you discover you have a problem employee, you sit down with the employee and provide counsel. If you do not take action, and the employee has an accident at a future time while driving your company’s vehicle, there could be a claim of negligence brought against your company. In addition, you might have put your insurance carrier at risk, which could result in higher premiums or the cancellation of your policy.

10.  Conduct a comprehensive initial interview. In addition to random drug testing, the monitoring of driving records and field supervision, the initial interview and check of references is critical to protecting the company and reducing potential risk. It is important to eliminate applicants for driving positions who have a poor driving record. A drug test can be required after an employment offer is made. It would be a good idea to include a driving test supervised by a certified examiner where the applicant can demonstrate they can safely drive the service vehicle.

A local cleaning firm requires its employees take a defensive driving course to enhance their driving skills. This approach is more proactive and can prevent accidents and claims.

Other types of problems that companies have experienced with employees outside the workplace are: sexual harassment, theft, workplace violence, vehicle misuse, misappropriation of supplies, personal use of equipment and diverting work from the employer.

What are you doing to protect your company from a potential insurance claim or lawsuit?

Cary Silverstein, MBA, is the president and chief executive officer of Fox Point-based Strategic Management Associates LLC. He can be reached at (414) 352-5140.

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