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Legal Memorandum: Scope of a Teacher's Employment

Issue: May molestation of students by a teacher ever fall within the scope of that teacher’s employment?

Area of Law: Education Law, Employee Law
Keywords: Scope of Employment; Teacher; Molestation
Jurisdiction: Vermont
Cited Cases: 730 A.2d 1086; 117 A.2d 250; 853 A.2d 48; 966 F.2d 67; 716 A.2d 31
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2007

One of the elements the insurer must establish to show an act is within the scope of employment is that the act at issue “is of a kind that the servant is employed to perform.”  Brueckner v. Norwich Univ., 169 Vt. 118, 730 A.2d 1086, 1091 (1999). 

To show an act is within the scope of employment, the insurer must also show that the act at issue advances the employer’s business and is motivated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer.   Brueckner, 730 A.2d at 1091; Anderson v. Toombs, 117 A.2d 250, 253, 119 Vt. 40 (1955).  As a matter of law, sexual assault and sexual harassment are not acts within the scope of an employee’s authority because they do not in any way advance the employer’s business.  See Doe v. Forrest, 2004 VT 37, ¶ 15, 176 Vt. 476, 853 A.2d 48, 54 (deputy’s sexual assault of store clerk outside scope of employment as matter of law because it was not actuated by a purpose to serve the employer); McHugh v. Univ. of Vermont, 758 F. Supp. 945, 951 (D. Vt. 1991) (employer has no liability for sexual harassment committed by employee because, as a matter of law such actions are taken for employee’s own purposes and are against the interests of the employer), aff’d, 966 F.2d 67, 73 (2d Cir. 1992) (same); Anderson v. Toombs, 119 Vt. 40,