Employee Claims – Responsibility on employers
A recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of McCarthy-v- ISS Ireland Limited and HSE succeeded on the basis that various acts committed by follow employees caused the Plaintiff injury for which the Employer was vicariously liable (i.e it was as if the acts had been committed by the Employer) and the Employer had failed to put in place a safe place of work to avoid the reoccurrence of this behaviour.
The Court held that the Employer had thereby “negligently permitted” an atmosphere to exist in the work place whereby cleaning staff felt free to “speak out and act aggressively and abusively” towards Ms. McCarthy “without fear of sanction”.
The Court found that it was too far a stretch to make the Employer liable for the individual acts of various employees and as such did not impose vicarious liability on the employer.
However, it found that in relation to the claim by the Employee that the Employer had not provided a safe place of work, it stated that the Employer “must take all reasonable steps to protect the Employee” where there is a foreseeable risk so that no injury is caused. In this case, the Court found that nothing was done to protect the Plaintiff who was in a supervisory role in circumstances where it was acknowledged that a supervisory role could lead the Plaintiff into conflict with her follow employees.
The outcome of this case is that Employers must be conscious and aware that just because an Employee cannot prove that behaviour amounts to workplace bullying may not absolve an Employer from liability. Employees have a duty to ensure that a safe place of work exists for all employees.
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