Generally speaking, an employer is liable for the acts of its employees if they are carried out "in the course of employment". Under discrimination legislation, discriminatory acts done by an employee in the course of employment are treated as having been done by the employer. This means that someone who is a victim of discrimination can bring a claim against an employer rather than an individual. This usually means there is more chance of receiving payment for compensation. The exception is if the employer can show that it took reasonably practicable steps to prevent the employee from doing the discriminatory act.
The test is fairly broad and generally speaking the Employment Tribunals have been hesitant in deciding to strike out such claims at an early stage, due to their fact sensitive nature. However, the Court of Appeal case of Allen v Hampshire Police says that claims for vicarious liability can be struck out if the facts alleged by the employee do not reveal any connection between the act complained of and the perpetrator.
This is another example of the Tribunals becoming tougher with their Case Management powers and the increasing emphasis that is being placed on the public interest of disposing of a claim as soon as possible.
Katie Stephenson is a Solicitor in the Employment Department at BHW Solicitors in Leicester. Katie can be contacted on 0116 281 6227.