Alberta case shows ‘master and servant’ law still applicable in the modern era

Recovering sick pay, medical expenses from those who harm workers
By Jeffrey Miller
|Canadian Employment Law Today


The phrase “master and servant” sounds quaint today — or worse, it suggests abusive power by one person over another. In a notorious English case from 1697, a court held it was normal for a master to “correct” his servant with a “cudgel, etc.,” although using a sword was just a little over the top. A good clout with a stick was all right, but the fact an employee was all cut up “showed malice.”

Nonetheless, lawyers still often call the employer-employee relationship one of master and servant. And a recent case out of Alberta affirms a very old doctrine allowing an employer as master to sue for expenses when someone has harmed the employer’s “servant.”