Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from California called me the other day to talk about the worst possible event: a fatality. The event transpired as follows. A company employee pulled out of the yard in a company truck, just like any other workday, in a way that has happened innumerable non-descript times. As the driver approached the four-way intersection, he stopped in the left lane, and clicked on the left blinkers, in anticipation of making a left turn through the intersection, awaiting the street light to turn from red to green.

Once the street light turned green, the driver pulled into the intersection to make the left turn. During that maneuver, the driver looked down to his cell phone positioned in his left hand, resting on his left thigh. Verified by the date-stamped time on the internal Driver Cam, that entire glance lasted one second.

All together now: “One thousand one.”

After that one second lapsed, the driver looked up and found his vehicle driving over a pedestrian in the crosswalk, trampling him, feeling the truck’s tires crush his bodily skeleton, killing him instantaneously.

One second.

An innocent man was killed.

Because of one second.

Hearing the common refrain from the business owner, “what do we do now Steve?”, I offered a three-part plan addressing the employee, the incident, and the inevitable lawsuit.

First, I instructed the owner to not terminate the driver. Realizing the pending litigious nature of this event, I reminded the owner that the driver is innocent until proven guilty, and as such we do not want to terminate a Hispanic driver prematurely, thereby creating the potential for a wrongful termination claim based on racial discrimination (i.e., let’s not be naïve and pretend your virtue signaling is sincere; racial discrimination claims happen all the time), if somehow a technicality showed him not to be a fault. Instead, I recommended the owner place the driver on paid Administrative Leave pending the results of the formal investigations conducted by the local Police Department and vehicle insurance provider.

I also told the owner to contact the company’s benefits provider to identify possible counseling services for the driver to assist him as he works through this traumatic event. And finally, I directed the owner to have an All-hands Meeting with all employees, explain the basic event to them, and remind them to not speak to anyone about this event, in person, on social media, to anyone, since the details were not yet made official.

Second, I recommended the owner identify a Point Person (e.g., Controller, Human Resources Manager, Vice President) to track the bureaucratic activity surrounding the Police Department’s investigation as well as the process conducted by the vehicle insurance provider. Until those investigations (e.g., witness interviews, vehicle inspection, Driver Cam footage, training records) were finalized, verified by the official Police Report and vehicle insurance summary, no administrative action should be taken.

Third, I urged the owner to contact external legal counsel immediately, assign him as the formal source of all future direction, to prepare for the anticipated vehicular manslaughter case and the wrongful death civil lawsuit from the decedent’s family. All communication, documentation, and action must be circulated through legal counsel for approval before taking any formal or informal steps.

And let me be clear, despite the procedural nature of this incident and my related sterile recommendations, we must acknowledge that a man was killed. A human life was lost. Reflect on that spiritual fact for a while.

That’s not virtue signaling. That is sincere, eternal sorrow.

Eternal sorrow, that was caused by “one second.”

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.