Almost since the very early days of our Union, have we been warning of that the days of chefs being able to dominate, bully, harass and do as they please were numbered.
Few have heard of the term, Vicarious Liability, but along with chefs now having to be Pharmacists, Scientists and Mathematicians, you will now need to be Lawyers and be very much aware of the pitfalls of this often used but seldom explained rule of law.
Vicarious Liability is one of the two Laws of Civil Liability. The other, Direct Liability, is more often understood by chefs who understand that employers could be sued if someone is made ill by food kept in dangerous conditions or if they neglect health and safety laws etc. Vicarious Liability is the Employers responsibility for what their Employees say and do during the course of their work.
Whilst normally Employers cannot be held accountable for your direct actions, they can be made liable for failure to take the appropriate action to either stop future incidents or the chefs continued actions, and the ultimate way of guaranteeing this is to dismiss the accused chef through gross misconduct clauses in their contracts. But why exactly should they need to resort to such extreme measures?
It's simple, and yet so many fail to understand. The financial penalties for negligence on behalf of the Employer can now run into tens of thousands of pounds. If an employer fails to take decisive action over a complaint against the perpetrator, they stand accused of a lack due supervision in their legal Duty of Care to their employees, and indeed “turning a blind eye” can also apply to anyone in supervisory care, including Head Chefs. The action is indefensible, and Unions can do little about it so long as due process had be adhered to.
So severe can the penalties be that dismissal is often the only course of action that a company’s lawyers will recommend, its final and decisive and the company escapes further claims.
Chefs must also learn that their victims voice must be heard above all others and that because of the risk of Liability, employers must listen and support those who complain, not to do so may make them liable to further action ( from Unions such as ours ).So the accused’s word against someone else’s can be, and often is irrelevant. If the victim has a witness to what was said or done, the case is even more secure.
So those chefs that believe they are “indispensable”, that they are so good at their job that they can say and do as they like in “their kitchen “ need to wake up and smell the coffee…very quickly
The days of the most junior of staff members being able to take offence at what you say to them and see you on the dole are right here and happening right now and the cost of a loose tongue and a toxic attitude can be very, very costly.