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Vicarious Liability in Employment

Vicarious liability is the legal doctrine by which someone may be held legally liable for the actions of someone else. This means that you could potentially be sued and ordered to pay damages for the conduct of a different person.

In the context of employment law, the term refers to the potential legal liability of an employer for the actions of their employees. This can even include the actions of employees while off duty, provided that the actions in question are related to their employment with the employer. However, this legal liability is limited to the duration of the employment agreement. Once the employment agreement ends, the employer is no longer liable for the future actions of their former employee.

How Vicarious Liability in Employment is Determined

Employers may be held liable for the wrongful conduct of their employees, as an implied term of the employment contract. In determining vicarious liability, the following considerations are important:

Other consideration when determining vicarious liability include:

  1. What opportunity did the employer give the employee to perform the action;
  2. To what extent might the action benefit the employer, and presumably make an employee more likely to undertake the act;
  3. The what extent was the action related to factors inherent to the employee’s position or profession;
  4. What power was conferred by the employer to the employee in relation to the victim of the action; and
  5. The vulnerability of the victim in relation to the power given the employee by their employer.

The stronger the connection between the employee’s authorized powers, duties, and opportunities, and the wrongful act, the more likely a finding of vicarious liability is appropriate.

Some statutes may place a limit of the liability of an employer. For example, under the Human Rights Code, an employer is not responsible for an employee’s harassment or sexual harassment. However, the employer may be liable should the conduct amount to a poisoned workplace environment, or if the employer knew about the wrongful conduct and condoned it.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Vicarious liability ensures that employers take precautions to reduce the risk of wrongful conduct. Prevention is important—once an employee engages in wrongful actions, the tendency is to look at the employer to see the steps it took or could have taken.

Whether you are an employer  who wishes to limit your vicarious liability, or an employee who has questions about whether your employer is vicariously liable for a wrongful action, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (866) 508-2548 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

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