Employee misconduct… employer responsibility?

Vicarious liability: Organizations may have to pay for the misdeeds of their employees
By Peter Israel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

When the Deas Island docking facility near Victoria, British Columbia, went up in flames in what appeared to be arson, its owners wondered how the arsonists were able to act while a security guard was on duty. How did they avoid him? Was he asleep, absent or otherwise derelict in performing his duties? It turned out that the guard himself was the arsonist.

So, British Columbia Ferry Corp. took Invicta Security Service Corp., the agency hired to provide security and the guard’s employer, to court. The court ruled Invicta was vicariously liable. Vicarious liability in its simplest term means that a person or corporation is legally responsible for the misconduct of another. In the context of employment law, it means employers are liable for certain wrongs, either negligent and/or intentional, committed by their employees.

The guard had given two versions of events. The first, given to police shortly after the fire, was that he observed it on a video monitor in the guard station.