What Is Negligent Retention? | All You Need To Know

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Negligent retention is when an employer fails to take action after learning that an employee has violated workplace policies. This can result in serious consequences for both the employee and the employer.

Employers must take action when they learn about violations of policy. When an employee is found to have committed a disciplinary offense, the employer must investigate and then take appropriate action, including termination if warranted. If you are an employer and have been notified of any violations, it is important to understand what negligent retention means.

Keep reading to find out what negligent retention is and how to avoid it.

What Is Negligent Retention?

Negligent retention is the failure of an employer to terminate an employee when they knew or should have known, that the employee posed danger to others. Employers are required to take action when they have concerns about the appropriateness of one of their workers after the person is employed, even though no company can ensure that every employee is mentally stable and does not constitute a threat to the safety of others. This includes the employee’s actions when not working, such as publishing hostile remarks on a social networking platform.

For example, an employee erupts after a supervisor asks why he is late. Although the employee stops yelling and making threats after a few minutes, the supervisor is surprised and worried about the employee’s reaction. A week later, the same employee fights with a co-worker, causing the co-worker an injury requiring hospitalization.

In the situation above, the employee whose reaction was extreme should have been disciplined and removed from duty until the supervisor was confident the employee posed no risk to others.

What Are the Results of Negligent Retention?

Negligent retention refers to a situation in which an employer is deemed liable for retaining an employee who is known to pose a risk or danger to others, and that employee subsequently causes harm to another person due to their actions or behavior.

In such cases, the employer is accused of negligence for failing to take appropriate action, such as terminating or disciplining the employee, despite knowing their problematic behavior or history.

Company reputation and morale are also impacted by an employer’s failure to remove an employee who poses a danger to others.

  • Harm to others: In extreme situations, negligent retention may involve life-threatening (or worse) injuries to others. Other types of harm may include violence, harassment, and theft.
  • Legal and financial: The time to defend claims of negligent retention and the costs involved, including legal costs, is expensive. Determining liability may include medical expenses for injuries, pain, suffering awards, and punitive damages.
  • Company reputation and morale: Even one negative instance of a company failing to protect its employees and customers may create significant reputation, brand, and morale fallout.
  • Productivity: Productivity losses resulting from careless retention situations might be significant. Employee involvement as witnesses and manager involvement in damage control may take priority over the company’s activity. Even those without a personal connection to the incident may feel less secure at work, reducing productivity. In some circumstances, workers could depart for a place they think is safer.

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How To Avoid Negligent Retention

To avoid negligent retention and its potential legal, financial, and reputational consequences, employers should take proactive steps to identify and address employees who may pose a risk or danger to others. Here are some strategies to help prevent negligent retention:

Step 1: Hire Carefully

Being careful when screening candidates before offering employment is the best way to ensure employees are well-suited. Hiring carefully is the best way to prevent most problems before they happen!

Step 2: Establish a clear hiring requirement Policies

Clearly define the qualifications, skills, and attributes required for each position to ensure that candidates meet the necessary criteria.

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Step 3: Establish a clear work policy and culture

Companies should have clear rules that outline expectations and forbid unprofessional conduct in the workplace. It’s crucial to be explicit when describing inappropriate behavior. Think about adopting a zero-tolerance approach to violence. These policies should be included in the employee handbook, which every employee should receive, accept, and go through training to comprehend fully.

In addition to formal policies, companies must be specific about complaint procedures when policies are violated. Complaint procedures should include multiple avenues for reporting so employees aren’t limited to their next in command. Open-door policies are often helpful in encouraging employees to come forward.

Step 4: Train Supervisors

Every supervisor has to be taught how to react when unwelcome behaviors arise at work. Supervisors frequently take no action when they are unsure of what to do. Swift action is essential when staff members are predisposed to violence or other grave behaviors.

Step 5: Create Room for Report and Feedback

Establish mechanisms for employees to report concerns or incidents related to other employees’ behavior. Ensure that these reporting channels are confidential and easily accessible.

Step 6: Thoroughly Investigate

Following the guidance of your legal counsel, interview anyone who may be involved in or witness an event. Make detailed notes and preserve all electronic records. It may be advisable to suspend an employee accused of causing harm during the investigative process. Suspension can be a great tool to further an investigation without interference, which is helpful for all involved.

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Step 5: Take Appropriate Action

Take action, then note it. Determine the right course of action under the regulations in your employee handbook. There are several instances where the wrongdoer should be fired. In some other cases, a written warning, an unpaid suspension, a demotion, a team change, enhanced monitoring, and further training on the organization’s anti-harassment and respectful workplace practices might be more suitable.

Suppose this is not the first instance of inappropriate behavior on the part of the employee. In that case, you should also consider if the behavior escalates in severity or if there is a problematic pattern. If one instance alone isn’t severe enough to warrant termination of employment, multiple instances may indicate a bigger concern.

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Examples of Negligent Retention

Negligent retention can take many different forms. Here are a few common examples.

Verbal Threats

An employee threatens others verbally yet is not reprimanded. Later, the employee follows through on his threats.

Sexual Harassment

When an employee sexually harasses someone but isn’t fired. The employee later engages in sexual harassment.

Assault with a Weapon

An employee brings a weapon to the office but isn’t terminated. The employee later injures someone.


An employee is arrested for theft but allowed to keep his job. Then, that same employee steals from a client while on a work-related visit to the client’s home.

Negligent Retention vs. Negligent Hiring

Negligent retention and negligent hiring are similar in that both involve an employer’s negligence in retaining or hiring employees who risk harm to others. Negligent hiring usually occurs because the employer did not conduct appropriate pre-hiring screening activities and hired someone they should have known could be unfit for the position.

Negligent retention enables workers to stay on staff despite indications that they are inappropriate. Negligent retention also includes failing to transfer an employee when there is a risk of damage, enforcing appropriate sanctions when an employee engages in inappropriate behavior, and not keeping an eye on someone whose actions call for careful supervision.

READ ALSO: What is a Notice Period? What is it used for?

FAQs On Negligent Retention

What is negligent retention?

Negligent retention is a legal concept that refers to the failure of an employer to take reasonable action to remove or address an employee who poses a known risk of harm to others, such as coworkers, customers, or the general public.

What kind of harm can result from negligent retention?

Negligent retention can lead to various types of harm, including physical injuries to employees or customers, emotional distress, damage to the company’s reputation, financial losses, and legal liabilities.

What can a plaintiff potentially recover in a negligent retention lawsuit?

If a plaintiff is successful in a negligent retention lawsuit, they may be awarded damages for various losses, including medical expenses, emotional distress, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.


Negligent retention has been shown to lead to increased business risk and loss. It can lead to increased litigation costs and deterioration in employee morale and productivity. It may also lead to reckless employee behavior, which could put the company at risk of injury or sabotage.


  • – Negligent Retention
  • – What is Negligent Hiring and Retention?

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Chukwudumebi Amadi
Chukwudumebi Amadi

What’s up, I’m Dums. I help brands gain visibility through SEO Writing and other applicable Content Marketing Strategies.

My educational background includes a BSc in Mass Communication with a focus on writing for the New Media.

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