Rogue Employee of the Week – The Case of the Off Course Captain.

Posted: January 17, 2012 in Lawsuits, Rogue Employees

It’s only mid-January, but Francesco Schettino has made a strong case for Rogue Employee of the Year as a result of the crash of the Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized off Tuscany. You can find the full story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/costa-concordia-ceo-capain-crash-disaster-cruise-ship_n_1208791.html?ref=business&ir=Business

The Captain apparently thought his personal judgment was superior to that of his company, which had a programmed course for the ship. The result was a crash against a reef that capsized the boat, the deaths of at least six people (with sixteen more unaccounted for), and the risk of 500,000 gallons of fuel leaking into pristine waters. It has also been alleged that the Captain abandoned ship before the passengers had been evacuated.

Having an employee who causes injury or death to customers or members of the public is the worst thing that can happen to a company. In addition to the tragic loss of human life in the Concordia crash, the company expects to lose $85 million to $95 million. That’s before the lawsuits start flying, which could conceivably double or triple that number.

There are two lessons here for employers. The first lesson is that employers have to take reasonable precautions to prevent tragic accidents. This it obvious to employers who have company vehicles, and for employers in inherently dangerous fields, such as construction. You may have to drug test and have a strict policy on drugs and alcohol (but, see my post on having employees pee in a cup https://damnedif.com/2011/03/21/you%e2%80%99re-damned-if-you-don%e2%80%99t-get-legal-advice-before-having-your-employees-pee-in-a-cup/).

Even if you have a safe office environment, you still have to be careful about employee drinking and driving (see my post on holiday parties https://damnedif.com/2011/09/27/you-may-be-damned-if-your-drunk-employee-leaves-the-company-party-and-kills-someone-in-a-car-accident/).

The second lesson is that employees who do not follow company guidelines will get your company in trouble, no matter what industry you are in. Off-the-course employees can get you into trouble with government regulators, expose you to lawsuits, alienate customers, etc. It’s up to you to identify the danger areas and take safeguards to protect your company. In the case of the Concordia, the company had its set course, but it’s not clear if the company adequately trained the Captain in the specific dangers off the coast of Tuscany. As you read this, someone in your company is cutting corners, or veering off your set path, and they may not even appreciate the risks. You can’t always prevent rogue employees from doing this, but you can at least educate all of your employees on the consequences of their actions.

By Adam P. Whitney

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