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Can an Employer Force You to Accept Legal Responsibility for Actions on the Job?

Have you been asked by your employer to sign a contract or take action that you believe might break the law? Here’s what you should know:

First and foremost, if you knowingly break the law while working, you can be held responsible. This is true even if an action is considered company policy or a supervisor or co-worker encourages you to act illegally. If you are asked to do something and you know it is illegal, you should refuse and then take appropriate action, such as reporting the event to human resources or legal authorities.

However, there are instances in which you might be asked to do something that you are not sure is legal. There have also been cases when employees acted at the direction of their supervisors with no idea they were breaking the law. And finally, you might be asked to accept responsibility for something that could potentially happen in the future. For instance, you might be asked to sign a contract that, if violated by your employer, could put you in a legal bind.

What Do You Need to Know to Protect Your Rights?

You are allowed to refuse to do or sign anything that puts you at risk or that you believe would break the law. Any time an employee takes responsibility for the actions of an employer, he or she could be held responsible. Furthermore, you could still be held responsible for the commitment you made once you are no longer employed by that company.

An example is the signing of a contract for goods. If an employer falls behind on payments for equipment used in the workplace, the employee that signed and accepted the equipment can be sued for payment, even after he or she is no longer employed by the company.

The only employees that should be signing contracts for any company are those that are officers or high-ranking managers. They understand, or should understand, the legal ramifications of their actions, and likely have a plan in place to protect their own well-being, should something go wrong.

What is the Reason for the Request?

If you are asked to sign something or do something that seems unusual to you, ask questions. Why, if your superior is not willing to take responsibility, should you be asked to do so? If something is on the up-and-up, why wouldn’t he or she just handle the matter? At the very least, speak with human resources before making any decision to do anything. Keep in mind though, if your employer’s policy is to put employees at risk, you might be given the same story by HR as you’re hearing from your boss.

The bottom line is you have the right to refuse to do or sign anything as an employee, but you might face consequences. You are better off fighting back once action is taken against you then you are putting your own well-being at risk.

If you are being asked to perform duties or sign documents by your employer and the requests have made you uncomfortable, we can help. Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case

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