Rights of Master - Disorderly Conduct - Unjust Dismissal - Misdeeds of Servants - Acting Maliciously
Rights of Master A master has no right to open or search his servant's boxes to recover stolen property. The proper course to pursue is to apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, and to have the boxes opened in the presence of the servant and of a police officer.
For noisy or disorderly conduct late at night, the servant may not only be dismissed, but given into custody.
If a servant, when lawfully discharged, refuses to leave the premises, he may be turned out, using no more force than is necessary in order to get him out of the house. A master is not entitled to call in a policeman to assist him in ejecting the servant; but a constable can be called in to see that there is no breach of the peace. A fellow-servant is justified in assisting his master or mistress to eject a discharged servant who refuses to quit, and cannot be convicted of assault unless he has been unduly violent.
When a servant refuses to leave and take his boxes, the latter should be put out into the street; if the servant is then put off the premises, and begins to annoy his master by knocking at the door, ringing the bell, or causing a crowd to assemble, he should straightway be given into custody, and charged with disorderly conduct. Unjust Dismissal
A servant who has been dismissed without good cause may regard the contract as at an end, and sue for the wages due for services actually rendered, or he may regard the contract as still existing, and bring an action for damages, whether his wages have been paid up to the time he was discharged or not. Such actions are usually brought in the county court, and, in the case of a domestic servant, the maximum amount of damage which could be claimed would be a month's wages.
Another remedy, more applicable to the wider class of servant, is to wait until the time of the contract has expired, and then sue for the whole of the wages.
By the death either of the master or the servant, the contract comes to an end. A farm bailiff employed under a contract requiring six months' notice on either side, could not compel the widow of his late employer to continue him in her service or pay him the six months' wages.
The bankruptcy of the master does not cancel the contract of service, unless the servant immediately ceases to serve his employer; but if he stays on and continues in his service, he would be entitled to be paid in proportion for the time he served. Domestic servants and clerks are entitled to have four months' wages, if so much is due to them, and not exceeding £50; labourers and workmen two months' wages, up to £25; and these are to have priority of all other debts.
A master may defend his servant who is in danger of being assaulted, and if a servant is beaten by some third party, and unable to do his work, not only has the servant the ordinary remedy by summons against the person who has committed the assault upon him, but the master may also recover damages from the person who has deprived him of the services of his servant. A servant may lawfully assault a third person in defence of his master.
A master or mistress is responsible for every act of his servant done in the ordinary course of his employment, and this is so even when the servant is acting contrary to his master's express orders. On this principle the London General Omnibus Company were held liable for the act of one of their drivers in obstructing and upsetting a rival omnibus, although by the company's rules the driver was expressly forbidden to race or obstruct another omnibus. A pawnbroker is liable for a pledge lost by his servant, and an innkeeper for injury to a customer's horse and gig through the carelessness of his ostler. The question will often arise how far the servant can be regarded as being on his master's business, as, for example, where a coachman driving on his master's business makes a detour to call upon a friend, or drives out of his way to leave a parcel of his own. In these two instances the master was held responsible for injuries caused by the servant. The master is not responsible when the servant is acting entirely on his own account, as where a coachman takes his master's carriage out without leave, and runs over a person in the street.
Although a master generally does not incur any criminal liability for the wrongful acts of his servant, he may be civilly responsible; for instance, a tramway company is responsible for an assault on a passenger by one of their conductors. But where a servant quits sight of the object for which he is employed, and. without having in view his master's orders or interest, does that which his malice suggests, the master is not answerable for the act.