DEFINITION of 'Respondeat Superior'

A legal concept in which a company and the company's management are held responsible for employees' actions. The phrase "respondeat superior" is Latin for "let the superior respond," and it prevents employers from profiting from the illegal acts of their employees while avoiding legal repercussions themselves. For respondeat superior to apply to a legal case, an employee of the company must have committed the crime for the benefit of the company, not for his or her own benefit.

BREAKING DOWN 'Respondeat Superior'

The goal of respondeat superior is to encourage company management to be knowledgeable about the laws while also making it easier to persecute different managerial layers without having to prove the intent (i.e. direct orders) to commit a crime. However, the existence of a compliance program allows many companies to claim employees who violate laws as "rogue," and deflect legal action away from management.

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