GRHThrough the employment of staff an employer has exposure for the actions of an employee that bind the employer. This long established legal principle is referred to as Vicarious Liability.

Vicarious Liability is a liability imposed on one person for the wrongful act of another on the basis of a legal relationship existing between them. This extends to an employer being liable for the wrongful act of an employee.

An employer has long been found to be liable for the harmful acts of an employee if they are done within the course of their employment. A simple example of this would be an employers liability to pay damages in circumstances where an employee in the course of their employment has negligently caused harm to another person.

A recent High Court decision has explored the possibility that an employer could also be held responsible for the actions of an employee when they have gone beyond their normal course of employment and have engaged in intentional and criminal acts.

The recent High Court decision of Prince Alfred College Incorporated v ADC [2016] HCA 37 dealt with a horrific systematic sexual abuse of school children performed by an employed master of a boarding school.

Whilst the victim did not succeed ultimately due to limitation issues, the High Court’s decision has opened the door for liability of employers for the criminal acts of employees in certain circumstances.

In the Prince Alfred College case the High Court looked at the role the employee was appointed to, the special position he was placed in with respect to the victim and the high level of authority, power, trust and control that was delegated to the employee. This combined with the vulnerable position of the victim, presented a factual scenario whereby the occasion for wrongful conduct was as a result of the employee’s role.

Whilst this is not an absolute rule in respect of the criminal acts binding an employee it does present an indication for employers in scenarios whereby they have highly dependent and vulnerable people under their care, such as schools, hospitals, aged care facilities, disability providers and alike.

Employers need to ensure that they have proper systems and polices in place to maintain supervision of staff and ensure transparent reporting systems.

At Everingham Solomon’s we have the skills and expertise to assist you with your employment needs because Helping You is Our Business.

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