Am I Being Harassed In the Workplace?
At Lincs Law Employment Solicitors we often get enquiries from employees who feel that they are being harassed and bullied at work. Employees don’t always realise that harassment at work has a specific definition. Please read on for further information about when you can bring harassment claims against your employer.
When can I bring a Claim for Harassment Against My Employer?
Harassment is a specific claim under the Equality Act 2010.
It is defined as:
- Person A engaging in unwanted conduct with Person B;
- The unwanted conduct is related to a protected characteristic of Person B;
- Which has the purpose of violating Person B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
What is a Protected Characteristic?
What is key to note from this definition is that the unwanted conduct must relate to a protected characteristic. A protected characteristic is also a defined term in the Act and includes the following characteristics:
- Race / nationality/ ethnicity
- Sexual Orientation
- Religion or belief
- Gender reassignment
In order to bring a harassment claim, the unwanted conduct you are receiving must be related specifically to one of the above characteristics. If the unwanted conduct does not relate to one of these characteristics, then you will not be able to bring a claim of Harassment.
Examples of Unwanted Conduct
The following are some examples of unwanted conduct:
- Aggressive language or actions
- A colleague or manager sending inappropriate messages of a sexual nature. Including passing comments of your figure, clothing choices or sexual habits.
- A colleague or manager using derogatory slang terms in front of you to identify a particular race, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc.
- A colleague or manager touching you on parts of your body that makes you uncomfortable, such as trying to give you a massage.
- Colleagues engaging in ‘banter’ or ‘jokes’ in which they make fun of one of the protected characteristics.
- Mimicking or making fun of someone behind their back (similar to ‘banter’)
- Making threatening or offensive remarks.
What if My Employer Is Bullying Me?
Unlike Harassment there is no statutory definition for bullying. Bullying in the workplace can take many forms and can include behaviour which is intended to exclude; humiliate; intimidate or offend an employee.
Your employer has certain duties towards you that are implied under your contract of employment. Some of these implied duties are:
- Duty to provide you with a safe work environment.
- Duty of mutual trust and confidence
- Duty to provide you with reasonable support
If the bullying behaviour you have been subjected to has the effect of breaching these implied duties, you may have the ability to resign and bring a claim for constructive dismissal (subject to other requirements being met). Please be aware, we always recommend that employees take legal advice before they resign!
What Should I do If I am Being Harassed or Bullied at Work?
As discussed above, your employer has a duty to protect you whilst you are at work. This includes protection from harassment and bullying.
If you consider you are being bullied or harassed at work, you should raise your concerns with your manager or HR department as soon as possible. They may be able to resolve the situation informally, but if this is not possible, you should look to raise a formal grievance in respect of the behaviour you are experiencing.
By raising a formal grievance, you are bringing to the attention of your employer the problems you are facing at work and requiring them to investigate your concerns properly and reasonably. For further information on raising a grievance, please see our blog https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/need-to-send-a-grievance-or-complaint-to-your-employer/
Employment Tribunal Claims and Time Limits
If the behaviour you have been subjected to meets the definition of Harassment (as discussed above), or if you want to bring a claim for constructive dismissal then you would need to commence a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
There are very specific time limits for bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal. You must commence ACAS Early Conciliation within 3 months less one day from the last act of harassment or event you are claiming.
ACAS Early Conciliation is a mandatory process that all potential litigants must go through before they can bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal. The aim of ACAS is to try and resolve the dispute between you and your employer without the need for further claims to be brought in the Employment Tribunal. If you are unable to resolve your dispute through ACAS Early Conciliation you will then be able to proceed to the Employment Tribunal.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
If you would like further help and advice in respect of bullying and harassment in the workplace, please call us on 01522 440512 for a free, no obligation, initial phone enquiry. For more information, please visit our website https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/workplace-problems/bullying-and-harassment/
Specialist Employment Solicitor