Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust, Court of Appeal, 16 March 2005

Vicarious liability
Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust, Court of Appeal, 16 March 2005

From November 1996, Majrowski was employed as a clinical audit co-ordinator for the trust. He alleged he was bullied and harassed by his manager, Mrs Freeman. He brought proceedings against the trust in the County Court under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The Act states that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to the harassment of another, and which they know or ought to know amounts to such.

At the preliminary hearing, the County Court judge had to consider whether the trust could be vicariously liable under the Act when the statutory duty not to harass was imposed only on the employee. He concluded the Act’s purpose was to protect individuals from harassment by individuals only, rather than to create another level of employer liability in employment law, and the claim was struck out.

Majrowski appealed. On the general principle of whether or not an employer may be vicariously liable for a breach of statutory duty only imposed on an employee, the Court of Appeal unanimously held an employer can be vicariously liable where the employee’s unlawful act in the course of their employment is sufficiently closely connected with the employer’s business.

Regarding the specific issue of whether the Act applies to claims against employers in respect of their workers’ harassment of a third party, the Court of Appeal held that there was no reason why an employer should not have vicarious liability, provided there was a sufficiently close connection with the employment. The Act was intended to protect individuals from harassment regardless of who caused it, and a corporation could be ‘a person’ capable of harassment under the Act.

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