The common law canon of respondeat superior became operation in the seventeenth-century England. Respondeat superior is a legal framework that defines the legal liability of an employer for dealings of any employee. The doctrine is part of the United States constitution under agency law and provides a realistic chance for injured parties to recover compensation form damages. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the principal is legally responsible for all the acts of an agent as long as the acts are committee while working. This doctrine makes it lawful agents to “let the superior answer” when performing the principal’s errand. The law guarantees that a person of sound mind can perform the work of an agent (Miller and Zois, 2006).
The relationship between an employer and the employee is termed an agency. In this law, the employer is called the principal when employing someone to engage for him. The person being employed or entrusted with a responsibility is called an agent. In this arrangement, the principal controls the actions of agent’s behavior assuming responsibility for all actions committed by the agents. Any person of adult age with a sound mind and physical fitness can sign a contract of agency. While working as agent, the principal has no supervisory roles, as is the case between the servant and the master relationship (Rao, 2009).
An employee is classified as an agent for a for the employer as long as the employee is under the authorization to act for the employer. The employee must be partially trusted with the employer’s business. However, the employer controls the time, place and mechanism of undertaking the operations. If there is documentation proving employee and employer relationships, the employer is deemed responsible for injuries that happen in the course of work. In a court of law, the conduct of employees in relations to work will be only accepted according to the scope of responsibility. The question of whether an employee acts in the scope of employment at the time of work has been a subject of controversy in many cases. Under such instances, the court may require the employer's job duties, time and place and the employment agreement between the two parties. The court must determine of the employee was hurt in the course of duty or out of duty. If the decision arrived confirms that the injury occurred at work, the employee is compensated. However, if the courts decide the injury occurred out of work, or due to the employees’ negligence, then the employer is relieved of the cost of compensation.
Zao & Miller (2006) report that respondeat superior cases have come to the agreement that an employee is not necessarily acting outside the requirements of employment by not being doing what it is best practice. In the same way, the principal cannot disown legal responsibility by demonstrating that the employer had done contrary to what was shown. For the purposes of respondeat superior, an employer is expected to accomplish a task if there is a chance that an employee cannot complete it. In the same way, minor detours from work will be not be counted as going outside the scope of work. Similarly, personal engagements such as bathroom visits, smoking, cup of coffee, and errands at work are counted in respondeat superior even though they necessarily do not include work. However, if an employee deviates from the routine of work by indulging in a frolic activity, for his or her own benefit, then the employee is limited by respondeat superior because the action is for the benefit for the employee and not the employer.
In the view of Rao (2009), under the respondeat superior, the employer is responsible for the actions of the employee if they are within the scope of employment. This responsibility stands even if the actions of the employee are reckless or accidental. Interestingly, the law stands for respondeat superior even in cases of intentional wrongs if they are done for the benefit of the employer. For example, a security officer who assaults a security breacher in defense of a premise or his boss subjects the owner of the premise for legal responsibility. In the cases of sensitive issues such as unusual care and protection or in areas of common use such as hotels, buses, and hospitals, the employer is liable for actions of customers or employees for their actions to third parties. This libability stands even if the actions are for personal gains and not for business gains. This legal part of this law premise on the fact that employers should be careful before hiring people. The reason is that criminals can be a threat to public safety.
The employer can also be responsible for their personal actions and harms to third party or employees in a place of business or a job duty. The employer thus becomes subject to the rule of respondeant superior. This liability can be extended to include actions such as hiring people of questionable character. The law does not allow the employee to escape responsibly for the injury or damage caused. In most cases, injured victims sue the employer and the employee, but the law only allows the employer to pay because the employee cannot afford.
Rao, V. R. (2009, September 3). Appointment of Agents. Retrieved July 7, 2012, from http://www.citeman.com/-appointment-of-agents.html
Miller & Zois (2006) Respondeat Superior. Retriieved September 3, 2012 from http://www.millerandzois.com/Respondeat-superior.html