Sexual harassment and vicarious liability: a warning to political parties

Loots, Barbara E. (2008-01)

CITATION: Loots, B.E. 2008. Sexual harassment and vicarious liability : a warning to political parties. Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif 19(1):143-169.

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INSTRODUCTION: The allegations that the former ANC chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, sexually harassed an administrative assistant working in that party’s parliamentary office has brought to light the immense power the special relationship between a political party and its chief whip bestows upon the latter. Of specific interest is the consideration that, under certain circumstances, the nature of this relationship can result in vicarious liability for the political party if its chief whip’s abuse of political power results in harm to a third party. This article investigates whether a broader application of the doctrine of vicarious liability can accommodate the special relationship which exists between a political party and its chief whip. Such an investigation, although controversial, is warranted in the light of the constitutional values and accompanying rights of human dignity, equality and freedom, which are violated by acts of sexual harassment. As Grogan indicated: “harassment cases are not like the run of the mill vicarious liability cases.”

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