if an employer forces employees to keep their phones in the company vehicle during the work and leave it unlocked, will he be responsible if the phone is stolen?

a woman said her husband along with other employees were forced to keep their cell phones in the company vehicles during work. while on the job the employer decided not to lock the vehicles since they are gonna be used throughout the day. the phones had been stolen and the employer said the employee is responsible for having listened to him.

so would the employee be responsible or the employer?

Asked on May 7, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Hawaii


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The employer is not liable for the theft because the phones were stolen by a third party not under the employer's control (i.e. the employer is not liable or the thief's actions); because the theft was not reasonably foreseeble (e.g. many vehicles are left unlocked without anything being stolen; it is far from certain or predictible that unlocking the car leads to theft); and because the employees, knowing they would not be allowed to take their pohone with them while working but would have to leave them behind, could have elected to leave them at home or in their own vehicles, and thus bear some responsibiltiy for leaving the phones in the unlocked vehicle. The main reason for the lack of liabilty is the employer's lack of control over the criminal--generally, people are not responsible for the criminal acts of persons not under their control--but the other two reasons reinforce that.

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