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Majrowski v Guy’s and St. Thomas’s NHS Trust [2006] 3 WLR 125

Breach of statutory duty – Harassment – Vicarious Liability

Facts

William Majrowski (M) was formerly employed by St Thomas’s NHS Trust (D). M claimed that he had been bullied by his manager (L), which M claimed amounted to harassment under section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It was held that D was vicariously liable for the tort committed by L. D appealed.

Issue

The issue in question was whether an employer could be vicariously liable for a course of conduct by one of its employees that amounted to harassment in breach of s.1 of that Act. D claimed that the purpose of the 1997 Act was to protect people against the public order issue of stalkers, which did not apply to the circumstances of the present case in the workplace; and furthermore, that vicarious liability in this case would place an unduly large burden on employers.

Held

An employer can be vicariously liable in damages under section 3 of the 1997 Act for a course of conduct by one of its employees that amounted to harassment in breach of section 1 of that Act. Vicarious liability for damages could be applied to statutory obligations breached by an employee in the course of his employment unless the statute expressly or impliedly indicated otherwise, which the 1997 Act did not. The House of Lords noted that section 10 of the 1997 Act had inserted section 18B to the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, through which an employer in Scotland could be held vicariously liable in damages to the victim of harassment in breach of the relevant provision of the 1997 Act. The House of Lords thus noted that Parliament must therefore have intended that the position be the same in England. The appeal was dismissed.


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