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THE QUESTION

I have an awkward moral, and perhaps legal, dilemma involving an off-the-beaten-track underground parking garage. Sometimes it is full, often not.

A woman was sexually assaulted in the garage.

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The garage operates 24 hours a day and provides free parking to clients. I work in a business in the same building.

I told the property-management company that women should be escorted to the garage, especially at night. But it was decided that the appearance would be bad for business and the request was denied.

I can see that, but how bad for business would it be for a client to be assaulted when no steps were taken to prevent it? What should, or could, I have done?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human-resources executive, Atlanta

Since the property-management company believes an escort may be too conspicuous, perhaps you could recommend a technology solution.

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It is common these days to secure garages with cameras and speakers, placing them strategically throughout the garage and monitoring them at a security desk. Putting up signs, visible to the public, indicating the area is under surveillance, could be an additional safety precaution.

An alternative recommendation could be offering a valet service, so clients avoid going into the garage altogether.

These are just a few recommendations; however, it might be wise to seek the advice of the local police service or your business' liability-insurance provider. They would likely be able to offer recommendations that make sense for your business and location.

If your property-management company still declines to take action, you could appeal to the other businesses in the building, that have a shared interest in the matter. You may be able to convince them to take action, as well as share the cost and effort to implement a suitable recommendation.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Shane King

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Partner, litigation & dispute resolution group, McLeod Law LLP, Calgary

You have certainly done the right thing by making this suggestion to the property-management company.

The management company could be opening itself up for potential litigation if another incident happened and they had chosen not to have a Safewalk program simply due to optics.

The risk of this could be that if an individual is attacked, with the management company having knowledge of a known and pending risk, the management company could be sued for failing to warn individuals of a known, pending risk. The damages in such a litigation would be quite high.

In regard to "what else could you have done," short of starting such an initiative yourself, it is difficult to force the management company to install such a program if they don't want to.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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