Violence in the workplace. Who is liable?

Can an employer be held liable for the actions of one of its employees who commits a violent act towards a member of public? The answer is “no”.

In a recent case, Mr M. went to Morrisons to print off some documents from a USB stick. Instead of getting assistance from the Morrisons’ employee, Mr M was racially abused by him. When Mr M. left the premises, he was followed by the employee who proceeded to kick and punch him. Mr M’s injuries from the attack were so bad that he contracted epilepsy. Mr M. then sued Morrisons claiming that they were responsible for the employee’s actions. The Court disagreed. The Court said that while they had every sympathy with Mr M’s predicament, Morrisons could not be held liable for the actions of an employee who, for his own reasons, had gone beyond the scope of his employment with them. The Court said that it would be a step too far to hold an employer liable for a motiveless attack in circumstances such as this one. The situation would have been different if Morrisons had known that their employee was prone to flying off the handle and being violent but they did not.

This is a helpful and common sense approach by the Court to violence in the workplace where violence should be treated on a zero – tolerance basis.

If you require any employment advice or representation, whether you are an employer or employee, please feel free to contact Umberto Vietri on 01535 613 674 or by email at

Umberto Vietri
Partner, Company Commercial

This blog has been prepared by AWB Charlesworth LLP as an overview of the legislation and does not constitute advice on any specific matter. You should not take any action in relation to it without taking detailed legal advice.