Am I liable for my staff misdemeanours?
Published on May 25, 2016
published on May 25, 2016

ThePeopleAlchemist Edit: HR, Business and liabilities


Until now, it was possible to hold employers liable for the acts (or omissions) of their employees. If they happened during the course of their employment. Are you liable for staff misdemeanours?

Well, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court takes this to a different level, extending this liability now to criminal acts carried out by employees that have little or nothing to do with their actual job.


The case in questions was against Morrisons’ supermarket chain. Specifically :

  • An employee working for the supermarket at one of its petrol stations attacked a customer and shouted racist language at him after the customer asked if he could print some images stored in a USB stick. After the customer went back to his car, he was punched and kicked repeatedly by the Morrison employee.
  • The customer brought a claim against Morrisons on the basis of vicarious liability.
  • County court dismissed the case in its first hearing.
  • The Court of Appeal upheld this decision.
  • The Supreme Court has now overturned the decision. The basis are that the employee did not ‘metaphorically take off his uniform” when he chased the customer and attacked him. Specifically after ordering the customer to stay away from the premises, he was “acting on behalf of the employer”.

This extends the law on vicarious liability. So now courts may be able to argue that employees’ actions are connected to their employment. Even if the employer has not condoned them.

Moreover potentially customers could now sue an employer if a member of their staff commits an unlawful act that affects them.

So, the answer to ‘am I liable to my staff misdemeanours?’ , it is starting to  look like a yes.

What can you do about it?

Ensure that your employees are trained about what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace. And what is absolutely NOT. Under any circumstances.

If I were you, I would make this a priority.


Laura Mariani

Laura Mariani

Best Selling Author, Speaker, Change & Transformation Expert


Hi there, I hope you enjoyed this post. Please do provide me with feedback.

I want to hear ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’. If you disagree with me or want to provide a different perspective, leave a comment. Tell me what’s on your mind.

Do remember though to be respectful and kind – we can agree to disagree, no need to be nasty. Thank you.


Laura xxx

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in my posts are ‘affiliate links‘. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, for example as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and absolutely would recommend to my readers.


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