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Don’t Let Vicarious Liability Hex You This Halloween

Halloween is upon us, and we here at SCE Solicitors are getting into the spooky spirit by hosting a Halloween Party. If you are like us, and want to have scare-fest this October, make sure your henchmen know how to behave to ensure you are not held vicariously liable for their dastardly deeds.

In simple terms, vicarious liability means being held liable for the acts or omissions of someone else. As an employer, your relationship with your employee is capable of giving rise to vicarious liability.

You can be held vicariously liable for acts of discrimination, including harassment, committed by your employees during the course of employment. During the course of employment includes at any parties or events you are holding for your staff. In the case of Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and Others [1999] a police officer was found to be acting in the ‘course of employment’ when he sexually harassed a colleague at an event immediately after work and arranged by the employer. Therefore, if one of your employees gets too rowdy and begins to make inappropriate sexual comments to another colleague then they you too could be held liable.

You can avoid being held vicariously liable for discrimination if you ensure you do everything you can to try and prevent such behaviour. This can include anti-harassment and equal opportunity policies or having training for staff on preventing inappropriate sexual behaviour and consent.

You can also be held vicariously liable for an injury to another. In the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2018], after a Christmas Party, the Managing Director and some of his employees were drinking in the lobby of the Hotel. This was not an organised event but was an impromptu drinking session. The topic of conversation turned to work, and an argument broke out. The Managing Director began to lecture the employees and asserted his dominance as the main decision maker of the company. The Claimant in this case suggested that the placement of an employee at one office rather than another was not the most sensible decision. This caused the Managing Director to punch the Claimant twice, resulting in a severe brain injury. The Court of Appeal held that the company was vicariously liable for the actions of the Managing Director, “Because of the way he chose to exert his authority, indeed his dominance as the only real decision-maker, in the company”. Therefore, you need to ensure that employees understand the ramifications of their actions and if your Halloween party this year involves liquor then your employees should be encouraged to drink responsibly. If you need any help with any incidents relating to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me or the team on 01133 50 40 30 or email at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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