March 9, 2016

Employer Responsible for acts of Employee

What happens if one of your employees is involved in a dispute at work with a customer or a colleague?

Who’s responsible for their actions?

Is it the employee?

Or is it the employer?

 

Based on a recent court ruling which is sure to shake things up a little, the Supreme Court found that Morrisons (the supermarket chain) were ‘vicariously liable’ for the actions of one of their employees whilst on duty.

 

In 2008, Ahmed Mohamud was on his way to London to take part in a demonstration against the war in Somalia. He stopped off at a Morrisons petrol station in Birmingham for fuel and while in the shop, asked if they could do him a ‘favour’ my printing of a couple of documents that he had on a USB stick. The Morrisons employee who served him, Amjid Khan, responded with a tirade of abuse and using a racial slur. Mr Mohamud did not respond with abuse in return and left the shop.

 

According to the court documents, Mr Khan then followed Mr Mohamud to his car, continued his abuse and began to punch Mr Mohamud. He then jumped on him and continued his physicao and verbal assault on the petrol forecourt.

 

What does this mean?

 

This is a major wake up for all employers, large and small. The Supreme Court has expanded the rule law that holds employers vicariously liable for what their employees do whilst at work.

 

Previously it was much easier for an employer to argue that the employee had acted ‘100% on their own’ and limited or negate completely the liability of the employer whilst the employee is at work.

 

Previosuly it was only in the case where an employee, who was involved in a role where the risk of a crime is much greater, for example a night club doorman, where the employer would be held liable.

 

This latest ruling now opens it up and increases the responsibility of the employer for all of it’s employees whilst at work. This will also enable customers to hold the employer liable if they are affected by any employees that commit unlawful acts while at work. This is also likely to affect incidents involving unlawful acts, assaults or harassments by a colleague whilst at work.

 

Mr Mahamud claimed that he had suffered both physical and psychological injuries and that this had led to epilepsy.

 

Caroline Wood, Director, HR Heroes, says: “the court will have to assess two things, the nature of the job that Mr Kahn had and whether there was a strong enough link between the job that Mr Khan had and his unlawful act to make it right for Morrisons to be responsible.”

 

In this case, the court found that there was sufficient connection to hold Morrison liable. Morrisons had previously dismissed Mr Khan after the incident and had offered compensation to Mr Mohamud and his family.

 

So how would an employer deal with this in advance? Simple really, your Employee Handbook should provide clear guidance on how you, as an employer, deals with these matters!

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