Where an employee has no prior criminal record or history of violent behavior indicating a propensity to rape, an employer is not liable for a rape perpetrated by that employee solely on the basis of the employee's lewd comments if those comments failed to convey an unmistakable, particularized threat of rape.
A security guard worked for a security company. An employee of the corporation raped the security guard at the corporation's facility. The employee had no prior criminal record, no history of violent behavior, and no history indicating that he harbored a propensity to commit rape. However, the security guard alleged that the employee routinely made sexually explicit comments to her, which his employer knew about. The security guard filed a case to recover damages against the employer, a steel corporation, based on allegations of negligent retention. The trial court, however, granted the employer's motion for summary disposition instead. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed.
Was the employer liable for negligence, based on the corporation's knowledge of sexually explicit comments made by its employee?
The Court held that where an employee had no prior criminal record or history of violent behavior indicating a propensity to rape, the corporation, his employer, was not liable solely on the basis of the employee's lewd comments for a rape perpetrated by that employee when those comments failed to convey an unmistakable, particularized threat of rape. Because the employee did not commit prior acts that would have put the corporation on notice of his propensity to commit rape and his workplace speech was not predictive of this criminal act, the corporation could not be held liable.