Course: Civil Liability
In Monell v. Department of Social Services, the United States Supreme Court held that local government agencies could be held liable for civil rights violations committed by their employees under certain circumstances.
Monell v. Department of Social Services was a landmark case in US civil rights law that the Supreme Court decided in 1978. The case involved a lawsuit brought by a group of women who had been subjected to discriminatory practices by employees of the New York City Department of Social Services, including sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based discrimination.
The plaintiffs argued that the Department of Social Services should be held liable for the actions of its employees under a theory known as “respondeat superior,” which holds that an employer can be held responsible for the actions of its employees if those actions were taken within the scope of their employment.
The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that local government agencies can only be held liable for civil rights violations committed by their employees if the violation resulted from an official policy or custom of the agency. This ruling established an important precedent for civil rights litigation and has been widely cited in subsequent cases involving government liability for employee misconduct.
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Last Modified: 03/10/2023