Legal Issues in the Workplace: Consumer Protection

Deviance and crime in the workplace have been subjected to extensive scholarly exploration as businesses face multiple legal challenges. In many cases, crimes are the result of failure to comply with a country’s legal frameworks. Deviance in the workplace has been described by Kabiri et al. (2021) as a serious international problem. Additionally, many crimes occur in the form of white-collar crimes, including fraud and embezzlement. Others include thefts of intellectual property and other behaviors considered to cause victimization. This essay focuses on a case study involving a business selling defective products as a result of poor handling by the employees. The key issues addressed in the paper include what constitutes an employee crime, who examines workers’ behavior, and a company’s power to punish or invoke an employee’s personal responsibility. Additionally, legal problems, in this case, are outlined, as well as the solutions and the need to engage a lawyer.

Employee Crime

The case study details described in the introduction may have legal consequences, most notably consumer protection laws. However, it can be argued that the actions of the employees do not qualify to be categorized as crimes. The rationale is that what is needed for the employee’s crimes to be qualified as crimes is harm caused to victims. The Correctional Officer (n.d.) defines crimes as acts committed to endanger, harm, or violate the rights of an individual or entire community. Additionally, crimes are committed by an individual or a group of persons, either deliberately or unintentionally. Most importantly, crimes are punishable by the laws of a particular country. Another key point to note is that the crimes are not only limited to physical damage but also apply to threats, mental, emotional, moral, and economic crimes. In many workplaces, white-collar crimes are committed and can be classified as economic crimes. Regardless of the nature of the actions, physical or other damages to persons or properties are considered crimes.

In the case study, the actions of the employees cause property damage. The defective products are produced by the business, for which it can be argued that the firm suffers the loss. However, the products are sold to consumers who end up with defective goods, which could mean financial losses. In many cases, consumers have the right to return defective products, which means that the business suffers financially from the actions of the workers. As mentioned earlier, crimes are either intentional or unintentional, but there should be a line drawn between accidents and crimes caused by reckless behavior on individuals. In this case, the biggest challenge is to identify who is the victim who suffers the damage. If it is the company, then the damages can easily be passed off as self-inflicted considering that the workers are part of the company. At best, the employee actions are a disciplinary case to be handled by the management since corporate leadership has the responsibility for the workers.

Even though the damages are a disciplinary case, there are caveats to this rationalization, which means that there is a possibility that the actions of the employees constitute a crime. According to Sam (2019), sabotage occurs in many forms, all of which can be considered crimes. For example, an employee who feels unfairly treated and is unhappy may seek to harm the company or a coworker for revenge. Such an employee is engaging in criminal activity following the definitions of crime given earlier. Damage to properties is a criminal activity as manifested by such actions as arson. In the case study, the company could determine that the actions of the workers are intended to harm the business by deliberately destroying goods. This scenario is built on the rationale that workers would be expecting that consumers will return them and the company suffers financially by replacing the damaged products. This is a case of sabotage, which qualifies as a crime.

Even with the possibility of sabotage, it can be argued that the employees are simply careless and potentially reflect the entire corporate culture. For example, dropping the boxes, which causes breakage, could be accidental and careless handling. However, the fact that no one checks the contents after such incidences means that the company is not concerned with ensuring that the goods are secure and in good shape before they are shipped to consumers. From this perspective, it is the company that should bear the responsibility for the workers’ actions. A company dealing with fragile products is expected to have proper mechanisms for ensuring their safety, which means policies and procedures for handling them. The employees would then be expected to adhere to the safety protocols, failure to which should see workers facing disciplinary action. Overall, the defective goods may be caused by the actions of the workers, but these behaviors are not extreme enough to qualify as crimes. What would be expected is proof of sabotage and malicious actions from the workers.

Examining Employee Responsibility

As mentioned earlier, the company’s management is responsible for examining the responsibility of the workers. In many cases, it is the role of line managers and human resource (HR) managers who examine a worker’s responsibilities. The rationale for this argument is that when hiring workers, businesses have designed job positions to include the roles and responsibilities, which then determine the skills and qualifications of a candidate. The roles of the HR managers often begin with recruitment and selection of the workers, as well as other such processes s onboarding. According to Maurer (2019), onboarding can be described as the process where new workers are integrated into a company and its culture. Therefore, if a worker finds carelessness as part of the culture, then there is a possibility the new employee will adopt the practices and become part of the problem. Many incidences involving incompetence may are arguably the result of a mismatch between worker skills and the job requirements. For example, employees handling fragile products need to have the necessary skills and equipment for the role, otherwise, mishaps will become a common occurrence.

Line managers and supervisors have direct contact with the workers, which means they are often the first line of contact between the employees and the corporate management. Additionally, the supervisors monitor the actions of the employees and direct their behaviors towards what is expected. Therefore, it can be observed that even though the HR role designs the jobs and places workers in their positions, the actual performance of the job is examined by the immediate superiors, in this case, the supervisors and line managers. If the employees are causing damage to products, then the supervisors and line managers are supposed to be aware of the problem and the executives should also be duly informed. The company is responsible for the workers, which includes the actions and behaviors within the workplace. Supervisors ensure that workers do what is expected of them, and workers’ mistakes could be a reflection of supervisors’ incompetence.

From a legal perspective, employers have a duty of care to their workers. Similarly, workers are expected to fulfill their obligations, failure which gives employers the right to dismiss them. In this case, the business is expected by law to produce goods or offer services that meet legal standards set by the country. Consumer protection laws give certain rights to the customers in case faults occur. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (2021) proposes several actions that can be taken by the consumer in case products are faulty. However, the most probable solution is returning the products or having them repaired by the producers. Therefore, the company is responsible for the delivered goods, which means faulty products as a result of the worker’s behaviors become a burned to the entire company. Additionally, the employers may not have a legal claim against workers, especially if the actions of the workers are not monitored. Therefore, the various levels of management are capable of examining workers’ responsibility by ensuring that the necessary protocols are followed.

Power to Punish

As mentioned earlier, the case of faulty products caused by workers’ mistakes is passed off as a disciplinary issue where a company can punish an irresponsible employee for causing damages. In a nutshell, the company has disciplinary power over an employee, which is established through the employment contract. As explained by Lawsen (2018), the subordination relationship establishes the employment contract, which entails performing work under the employer’s authority. This relationship gives the worker powers to issue orders and directives, supervise their execution, and sanction the failures of a subordinate. The nature of the sanctions may be unclear and hardly universal across the workplaces. However, each employer takes different approaches based on the assessment of the risks involved. Under gross misconduct, a company can decide to fire an employee, but even such a decision carries legal risk. In other words, some laws regulate the dismissal of workers and the failure to abide by them could result in an employer facing lawsuits. The power to punish comes from the fact a worker agrees and accepts to work, which means that failure to honor this commitment results in a breach of contract.

A key point to note is that the power to punish is not unlimited. The implication of this scenario is that there are incidences where workers can fail to comply with their employers and the companies will have no power to punish them. Some of those incidences entail where the ordered work is to the detriment of the worker. The behavior of the employer can come under scrutiny if they engage in wrongdoing. The definition of a whistleblower is someone who sounds an alarm when there is something wrong and is punished for doing so (Lawsen, 2018). Such individuals can sue the company and claim damages for unlawful punishment. However, it is important to acknowledge that blatant refusal to do a job or follow certain protocols gives the firms the power to punish noncompliance. Companies seeking to punish employees often consider the legal and economic risks involved for both the intended punishment and for doing nothing. In the case study under consideration, the firm has to consider the economic losses from careless behavior and the legal and financial costs of replacing incompetent workers or punishing them.

Persona responsibility can be described as a scenario where workers take full responsibility for their actions, which also means shouldering the consequences of their actions. If the employees are to fulfill their jobs, companies are expected to design their jobs, roles, and responsibilities and provide every necessary mechanism and platform for the employees to accomplish their tasks. In this case, failure to follow protocols and procedures, as well as other governance requirements could lead to invoking personal responsibility. From a legal perspective, producers of goods have a civil liability for defective goods, which could result in lawsuits. Therefore, the producers are expected to ensure whatever is delivered meets requirements, a practice that falls under the duty of care (Davies, 2019). Workers failing to adhere to this duty can become personally liable for any damages. Similarly, companies can hold workers responsible for the actions they undertake, especially when the damages suffered are the result of gross misconduct. In this regard, dropping packages containing goods that can break can be considered misconduct, for which the workers should be held responsible.

Invoking personal responsibility could pose a challenge for the employer, especially if the damages are accidental. Workers can protest such a policy and could have their unions engaged with businesses regarding such matters. However, the company remains within its rights to punish misconduct and carelessness, especially considering the economic costs of faulty products. Before invoking personal responsibility, it can be argued that the business would need to have a framework that allows workers to avoid mistakes and accidents. Additionally, there would need to be a criterion to determine accidents and carelessness since not all breakages will out of workers’ recklessness.

In my opinion, the main legal problems revolve around consumer protection law and the employment relationship. Consumer protection law is intended to ensure that all products sold to customers meet the intended purpose and that they function as expected. Therefore, the delivery faulty product is a direct violation of the consumer protection laws, which places a civil liability on the part of the producer. From a legal perspective, companies can be sued for negligence and be liable for damages caused by the products they sell (Davies, 2019). Such incidences often arise when the products cause harm. However, I would acknowledge that even nonfunctional products could be perceived as negligence since manufacturers are expected to test their products before selling them. The main problem in the case regarding consumer protection law is that the company suffers from the actions of workers without the possibility of claiming damages from them. As mentioned earlier, the actions of the workers do not constitute a crime despite the damages caused. Therefore, it means that if the company is to be sued for faulty products, the legal and financial costs are shouldered by the company.

Another legal problem revolves around employment relationships, which focuses on such issues as employee rights. The reason I consider this to be a problem is that workers costing a business massively from damaged products could face disciplinary issues that have legal consequences. The potential actions presented earlier regarding punishment and invoking personal responsibility have a direct implication on the employment contracts. In this case, it can be argued that punishments could be in the form of dismissal or wage deductions to cover the damages. In such countries as the UK, wage deductions are prohibited under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Dube, 2021). However, the only lawful provisions for wage deductions include where there is a statutory authorization, a specific provision on the employment contract, or written consent from the worker. In the United States, employers have historically successfully defended claims of deductions often by focusing on technicalities within the US laws prohibiting deductions. Overall, the argument is that punishing workers by making them personally liable could face legal hurdles. Similarly, there are laws regulating unfair dismissal, which could also prevent firing as a disciplinary action.

Solving the Problem and Contacting Lawyer

As a business leader, I would have to take drastic measures to resolve the problem. Firstly, it can be observed that the workers are grossly careless, which is the main issue. Therefore, my starting point would be to develop better policies to govern the actions and behaviors of the workers. Additionally, a safety culture could shape workers’ attitudes and behaviors and lay the foundation for all preventive measures. From a legal perspective, the consumer law problem can only be resolved by ensuring the products delivered are not faulty. This means that the company should monitor the workers to ensure that they handle products with care. The main weakness on the part of the company was that even after packages are dropped there is no one to check the condition of the products before they are shipped to consumers. The solution is as easy as simply requiring all accidents and incidences checked to confirm that all products are undamaged.

However, I hold the position that the ultimate solution could be restructuring the employment contract to allow the company more power to enforce compliance. At the moment, the possibility of punishment is unclear since such issues as employment contracts are not discussed. It has been assumed that the employer can only make workers personally responsible if the contracts create such room. Restructuring these contracts can allow the company to insert clauses that outline how the responsibility for damages is shared between the company and the employers. This way, the company can require that all workers are careful with products lest they face deductions for all defective products delivered from the fault of the worker. This is the stage at which I would contact a lawyer since changing the contractual terms could have legal hurdles, including workers failing to agree to the new terms.


The paper has addressed a case study involving employees causing damages to products delivered to consumers. The key issues addressed have included the criminality of the workers’ behavior and the possibility of punishing such actions. Regarding these issues, the actions have been perceived as a disciplinary problem that can be handled as opposed to crimes considering that the core parameters of a crime are not met. Similarly, the employers have limited powers t punish the workers. The key legal problems revolve around consumer protection and employment relationships. Resolving these challenges would require some drastic measures, which include restructuring the employment contracts.


Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. (2021). Faulty goods. CCPC. Web.

Correctional Officer. (n.d.). Criminal Justice terms and definitions. Web.

Davies, A. (2019). Defective products and product recall Issues for businesses. BDB Pitmans. Web.

Dube, P. (2021). Is it lawful for employers to make wage deductions? People Management. Web.

Kabiri, S., Choi, J., Kruis, N., Shadmanfaat, S., & Lee, J. (2021). Social concern as a means of understanding the risk of workplace deviance. Deviant Behavior, 1-20. Web.

Lawsen. (2018). Is the disciplinary power of the employer becoming anachronistic? Lawsen Advocates. Web.

Maurer, R. (2019). New employee onboarding guide. SHRM.

Sam, C. (2019). Employee crimes in the workplace. Eguard. Web.

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