Washington Law Review


The torts of negligent hiring, supervision, and retention place a duty on employers to prevent their employees from using the places, things, or tasks entrusted to them to harm foreseeable victims. The negligent employment torts create an independent duty under which plaintiffs may pursue an action when suits brought under a vicarious liability or breach of fiduciary duty theory would fail. For victims of sexual misconduct by religious leaders, negligent supervision claims against religious organizations are a crucial means of remedying serious and lasting injuries. Washington state law recognizes negligent supervision, and Washington courts have applied it to religious organizations, but these claims typically implicate First Amendment religious freedom concerns. A short series of Washington appellate cases affirming grants of summary judgment to religious organization defendants on First Amendment grounds has made it more difficult for plaintiffs to assert negligent supervision claims against religious entities. This Comment argues that Washington courts have granted religious organizations an impermissibly broad level of First Amendment protection from claims of negligent supervision, and suggests a more deliberate analytical framework for evaluating the constitutionality of such claims.

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