Friday, 01 November 2019 14:35

Avoiding Vicarious Liability

Vicarious Liability exists in the workplace where an organisation becomes liable for the actions, deeds or words of one or more of its employees. This can be a significant issue. Under the Equalities Act, awards for discrimination against the protected characteristics are unlimited. Therefore, inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour by a single rogue employee could cause financial ruin for his or her employer.

An example of vicarious liability might be where an employee is victimised by her boss because she is female and, feeling her position is untenable, chooses to quit her job. Subsequently she raises a constructive dismissal claim. The claim would initially be made against the company which, as the employer, would be vicariously liable.

If however, it could be proved that the correct training had been provided by the company to the offending manager, and that otherwise throughout the organisation a non-discriminative culture existed, the business would have a strong argument that it was not at fault. If the employee who made the claim wins her case, then the liability would rest on the shoulders of the victimising boss, for whom it could result in a very costly outcome.

Be aware that it’s not enough to have polices simply in existence. In order to avoid any blame for wrongdoing falling on the organisation, employers must stand by their policies and ensure that all staff know about them and are adequately trained. The organisation should maintain evidence that they have taken reasonable steps to implement their policies in the workplace and amongst the workforce.

If a company can show that they have created a non-discriminative organisational culture that is “lived and breathed”, acts of discrimination can then be attributed to any offending employees. Any fines or awards would then also be attributed to the individual who would be liable to pay.

In other words, where businesses can prove that they have taken reasonable steps to implement policies that safeguard against discrimination, employees cannot hide behind the company and could find themselves exposed to prosecution for offences perpetrated in the workplace.

Cases do exist where line managers have been personally fined so this outcome is more likely than you might think. The key of course is to make sure you regularly train on Dignity at Work Training for all employees and this has been recorded; and that relevant policies are up to date and staff have signed to say they have read and understand them.

For any help and support with your equal opportunities policies or to enquire about our dignity at work training, as usual you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 2651 times Last modified on Friday, 01 November 2019 14:55


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