In Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc, a customer had been subjected to a serious assault and racial abuse by the employee in his working hours and on company premises. The customer brought a claim in the County Court against Morrison’s which they contested, arguing that their employee was not acting on their behalf when the customer was assaulted. However, the Supreme Court disagreed.
In finding Morrison’s to be vicariously liable, the Court noted that because the employee was employed to attend to customers, interacting with customers was within the ‘field of activities assigned to him’ by his employer. As the assault took place at a time that the employee was working, there was an ‘unbroken sequence of events’ between the field of activities assigned to the employee and the assault because his employment did not cease at the moment when he came out from behind the counter. What he did do was follow the customer onto the forecourt, assault him and warn him not to return to the employers premises. In the circumstances, the Court did not regard the employee as having ‘metaphorically taken off his uniform’ when he stepped out from behind the counter – he was following up on what he said to the customer including the instruction to keep away from his employers premises which gave the appearance that he was acting on behalf of the business. The connection between the position in which he was employed and his wrongful conduct was, in the Court’s view, close enough for it to be right for the employer to be held vicariously liable.