Woman Sues Subway Over 'Big Mama' Insult - Free Enterprise
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Woman Sues Subway Over 'Big Mama' Insult

Fast food chain Subway is being sued by a California woman after an employee wrote "Big Mama" on one of her orders.

Allison Brown, 45, of Murrieta, took the Subway employee's message as an insult. It caused her to "[break] down crying" and to seriously question her appearance, according to Jezebel.

So can businesses be sued for allegdly being rude to customers?

Vicarious Liability

In certain scenarios, business entites like Subway can potentially be responsible for the negligent or intentional acts of their employees if the employees are acting within the scope of employment. Under vicarious liability laws, an employer may be held liable for an employee's acts if:

  • The injury occurred on the clock;
  • The injury was caused by the activity the employee was hired to perform; and
  • The employer benefited in some way from the activity the employee was performing at the time of the injury.

In Brown's case against Subway, the employee apparently admits to scrawling the "Big Mama" comment when he boxed up Brown's order, so he was acting within the scope of employment and was doing so on the clock.

To avoid future liability, it may be wise to implement a system in which a higher-ranking employee serves as a "gatekeeper" before the final product reaches the costumer, so any rude or offensive comments can be caught before the customer sees it.

Negligent Training?

Although Subway's corporate headquarters offered Brown a $5,000 settlement contingent on a confidentiality agreement, Brown refused and is opting to go to court. One of Brown's goals is to include a plan for sensitivity training as part of Subway's franchise agreements, Jezebel reports.

This brings up the issue of negligent training. If an employer fails to use reasonable care in training or supervising his or her employees, then he or she may be liable for the harmful acts caused by the employee.

While it may seem like common sense to not make disparaging remarks to customers, you may want to reinforce that principle during your training sessions and even include it in your employee training manuals. You can also hold refresher sessions to remind your employees of proper customer etiquette.

According to Jezebel, the owner of the Subway franchise has disciplined the employee and contacted the customer about the matter.

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