Employee placement firm not on the hook for account temp’s embezzlement from companies, Texas justices find

By David Yates | Nov 29, 2017

HOUSTON – A trial court did not error in granting an employee placement firm summary judgment in a lawsuit alleging it was negligent in recommending a temp who eventually embezzled $160,000 from the company she was placed with, the 14th Court of Appeals recently found.

When two companies owned by Judd Ryan found that a common employee had allegedly stolen the money, they brought suit against Robert Half International in 2014.

Accountemps, a division of Robert Half International, specializes in placing accounting professionals with companies to work on a temporary to possibly permanent basis.

Seeking a temp, Ryan, owner of Ryan Construction Services and Builders Blueprint, contacted Robert Half International and was apparently assured by its representatives that: “We check our people out. You are getting the best when you work with Accountemps.”

Angela Eubanks was recommended and the companies signed an agreement, court records show.

Shortly after Eubanks began working at Ryan Construction, Ryan asked her if she also would work for Builders Blueprint without informing Robert Half International. A few months later, Ryan Construction Services informed Robert Half International that it wanted to convert Eubanks, who had been working as a temporary employee, to a permanent one.

After becoming a permanent employee, Eubanks allegedly embezzled approximately $160,000 from Ryan’s companies. 

Court records show Robert Half International conducted a seven-year criminal history background check on Eubanks before she became a permanent employee of Ryan Constructions Services, which did not reveal any criminal history.

However, Eubanks did have a criminal history going back past seven years – a conviction for securing execution of a document by deception that occurred 13 years before the criminal background check.

Ryan and his companies assert that Robert Half International acted unconscionably under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act because the employee-placement firm failed to inform them that the criminal background check went back only seven years.

In response to the lawsuit, Robert Half International filed a summary judgment motion arguing Ryan had no evidence it had a legal duty to conduct any criminal background check on Eubanks, which was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the 14th Court of Appeals on Nov. 16, court records show.

On Appeal, justices found Ryan and his companies did not include anything in their appellate briefing other than the bald assertion that Robert Half International’s actions were unconscionable.

“The Ryan Parties did not allege they lacked knowledge or address whether Robert Half International took advantage of their lack of knowledge,” states the court’s opinion, authored by Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost. “Nor did the Ryan Parties undertake to explain that the alleged resulting unfairness was glaringly noticeable, flagrant, complete, or unmitigated.”

Justices found the trial court did not err in granting Robert Half International’s summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ negligence or DPTA claims.

Houston attorney Lennon Wright represents the Ryan parties.

Robert Half International is represented by Dallas attorney Robbie Malone.

The suit was filed in Harris County District Court, case No. 2014-14437

Appeals case No. 14-16-00181-CV

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