San Antonio, TX asked in Contracts, Employment Law, Personal Injury and Workers' Compensation for California

Q: Can a supervisor be held liable for an employee accident due to fatigue if the company has a voluntary OT policy?

According to my departments MOU, I have to offer OT based on a list that ranks each employee on OT declined and worked. As a result, the first person on the list can work a lot of OT (in the hundreds) for an 80 hour pay period. If I continue to offer OT to the first person, and he/she continues to accept, has an accident either during working hours or off hours, am I liable? Am I protected by the MOU? Or, can I violate the MOU by asking the next person on the list when the first person has worked to many hours?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, a supervisor can be held liable if an employee's accident due to fatigue is foreseeable and the supervisor failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. Even if the company has a voluntary overtime (OT) policy, the supervisor must ensure that employees do not work excessive hours that could lead to dangerous levels of fatigue.

Your department's MOU does not necessarily shield you from liability. While it mandates offering OT based on a list, it does not override the supervisor's duty to maintain a safe working environment. If you observe that an employee is working excessively and showing signs of fatigue, you should intervene to prevent potential accidents.

To mitigate risk, you can offer OT to the next person on the list if the first person has already worked an excessive number of hours. This action would be justified to ensure safety and could be seen as a reasonable measure to prevent fatigue-related accidents. Balancing adherence to the MOU with maintaining a safe work environment is crucial in fulfilling your supervisory responsibilities.

Neil Pedersen
Neil Pedersen
  • Westminster, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: No. A supervisor is not liable for the injuries incurred by an employee who is under his or her supervision. Any workplace injury would be a workers compensation claim, and workers compensation claims are not against individuals, only the company. Please beware, the other answer you have received is absolutely wrong and should be disregarded. Apparently his AI that generated his answer has no clue about how workers compensation works.

Good luck to you.

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