When are you required to disclose employee misconduct?

In  Doe-3 v. Mc Lean County Dist. 5, the plaintiffs, a first grader and a second grader, where allegedly sexually abused by a teacher who had been disciplined for the same type of misconduct at his previous job with a different school district.  The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the teacher’s former School District owed a duty to the plaintiffs to disclose the teacher’s prior misconduct when it filled out the teacher’s employment verification form in connection with his seeking the new job.  This ruling could have ramifications for many employers in Illinois.  

According to the Supreme Court’s opinion, the former school district’s misstatement on the employment verification form – that the teacher had worked for the district for the entire 2004-05 year when in fact he was removed from the classroom that year due to alleged sexual misconduct – created a risk of harm to the plaintiffs and was sufficient to plead willful and wanton misconduct.

The Supreme Court addressed four factors in establishing a duty owed by one person to another: (1) reasonable foreseeability of the injury, (2) likelihood of the injury, (3) magnitude of the burden of guarding against the injury, and (4) consequences of placing burden on defendant.  The Court held that in light of the former school district’s awareness of the teacher’s past sexual abuse and its false statement on the employment verification form, that the injuries were foreseeable.  As to the second factor, the Court held that the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs were not too remote or unlikely.  The Court also held that the magnitude of guarding against the injury – requiring an employer to accurately complete an employment verification form – would not be great.  In addressing the fourth factor, the Court stated: “it is difficult to see how many adverse consequences could result from imposing such a slight burden on a school district.”

This ruling is important for all employers who know that a former employee has committed misconduct in the past.  In sum, the Illinois Supreme Court found that an employer has a duty, when providing information to a former employee’s prospective new employer, to use reasonable care in ensuring that the information provided is accurate where it is foreseeable that injury might result from providing inaccurate information.

If you have been injured as the result of negligence or misconduct, or if you operate a business and are concerned about disclosure of employee information, the attorneys at DeBlasio and Donnell are prepared to help.  They can be reached at (630) 560-1123 or via our website at http://dd-lawfirm.com/contact.php.

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