False imprisonment refers to when a person forcibly restrains another against their will, and does so by the risk of being seriously injured or killed. False imprisonment is a common-law felony and a tort. Any person that intentionally restricts another person from any kind of movement or freedom, without their consent to do so, can be held liable for false imprisonment.

All states maintain their own laws associated with false imprisonment charges and protecting people from unlawful confinement. In order for someone to bring a civil suit for a false imprisonment claim, there are several elements that first must be proved. A person can be guilty of false imprisonment if they:

  • Said any words or committed any acts with the intent to confine the victim;
  • The victim was actually confined for some time;
  • The victim was aware that they were being confined; and
  • The detention was unlawful and willful.

The plaintiff must be aware of their confinement. An example of this would be how if they are asleep when confined and unaware of the situation, the defendant generally will not be found guilty of false imprisonment. In some jurisdictions, the victim cannot have a reasonable means of escape in order for false imprisonment to occur.

Additionally, it is important to note that acts of omission can also form the basis for false imprisonment. An example of this would be intentionally failing to unlock a door if a person is trapped inside.

There are several ways in which a person can be confined against their will or be deprived of their freedom to move. Some examples of false imprisonment include, but may not be limited to:

  • A person locking someone else in a room without their permission;
  • A person holding someone down in such a way that they cannot move or get away;
  • Grabbing someone;
  • Detaining someone for a period of time that is considered to be beyond the necessary amount of time; and
  • A security guard detaining someone for an unreasonable amount of time.

What Is False Imprisonment In The Workplace?

False imprisonment in the workplace occurs when a supervisor or manager detains a worker in such a way that is unreasonable, and causes harm to the worker. An example of this would be how if an employer uses a threat of force in order to detain a worker longer than is normally asked of them, it may be considered false imprisonment in the workplace.

Most instances of false imprisonment in the workplace involve a supervisor interrogating an employee over a dispute or conflict. Because of this, employers must exercise caution whenever they detain a worker. This is especially true if the detention is not a normal part of the worker’s routine.

An employer is allowed to reasonably detain an employee in order to investigate a dispute or some misconduct in the workplace. However, that detention becomes illegal if the period of questioning is unreasonably long, or if the employee is confined by using force or threats.

Can I Sue For False Imprisonment In The Workplace?

In order to successfully sue for false imprisonment, you must show that:

  1. You were detained, confined, or restrained against your will by your employer. or in your workplace;
  2. Your confinement was unlawful or illegal; and
  3. You believed that you were being detained, meaning that you did not feel as though you were free to leave at any point during the interrogation.

In short, an employer will be held liable to you for false imprisonment if you were detained for an unreasonable amount of time, or if you were confined in an unlawful manner.

When determining whether you were falsely imprisoned by your employer, the court will generally look at the following factors:

  1. Whether you were detained for what the court considered to be a substantial amount of time;
  2. Whether that period of detention was against your will;
  3. Whether you were detained or confined by the use of force, and/or the threat of force; and
  4. That your questioning was not within the scope of your everyday employment.

What Are Some Legal Penalties Associated With False Imprisonment In The Workplace? Are There Any Defenses To False Imprisonment In The Workplace?

When hearing a false imprisonment case, the court will consider the appropriate legal remedy. Such remedies generally include a monetary compensation award intended to compensate any injuries or suffering that the plaintiff experienced due to the confinement. Additionally, the defendant may be ordered to pay for the plaintiff’s medical bills and other court costs.

If the plaintiff’s injuries caused them to miss work, they may be entitled to collect lost wages for the time off from work. In especially severe cases, the defendant will likely face criminal charges in addition to any civil liability that they have incurred.

Standard defenses generally apply in a false imprisonment case. Proving that the victim cannot prove one of the aforementioned elements of proof is one way to defend against a claim or charge of false imprisonment. An example of this would be if the victim consented to the detention, or if the accused had the legal authority to detain them.

Some examples of defenses that may be available to the defendant include:

  • Legal Arrest: If the accused is someone such as a police officer, they may have had legal authority such as a warrant or probable cause to confine the person. In some very specific situations, a civilian may make a “citizen’s arrest;”
  • Shopkeeper’s Privilege: Store owners or agents of a store owner, such as a security guard, may use a reasonable amount of force in order to detain a suspected thief for a reasonable amount of time to investigate the theft, or an attempted theft. The store owner must have a reasonable belief that the suspect stole or was attempting to steal their property before legally detaining the person; or
  • Restraining a Minor: If the accused has the permission of the parent or legal guardian of the confined minor, and the amount of restraint is considered to be reasonable, the accused may use such a defense. Parents may also use reasonable restraint against their minor child, as long as such actions do not endanger or hurt the child. A minor is generally defined as a person under the age of seventeen. It is important to note that this defense is not available in all states.

What Else Should I Know About False Imprisonment In General?

In criminal court, a false imprisonment conviction may result in a considerable fine as well as the possibility of a jail sentence. Depending on the nature of the imprisonment, such a crime may be categorized as a felony.

In civil court, fault may result in paying a substantial amount of money to the victim, as previously mentioned. The accused could be prosecuted criminally and sued civilly simultaneously.

Other similar legal crimes and torts include:

  • Kidnapping;
  • False arrest;
  • Abuse of process;
  • Malicious prosecution; and
  • Criminal confinement. Additionally, criminal confinement of a child may include actions that endanger the child, such as leaving them in a locked car alone.

Do I Need An Attorney For False Imprisonment In The Workplace?

If you have been falsely imprisoned in the workplace, you should contact an experienced and local workers compensation lawyer immediately. An attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, and what your rights and legal options are under those laws. Additionally, your personal injury attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.