At Lincs Law we often get clients contacting us stating that they are being harassed in the workplace. Please read on for more information on what is classed as harassment and what you should do if you are being harassed.
What Does Harassment in the Workplace Mean?
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 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 is 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 harassment in the workplace
The following are examples of harassment in the workplace:
- Harassment due to age: An employee over 50 years of age is subjected to “banter” by his colleagues in which they call him grandpa or make negative jokes about his age.
- Harassment due to disability: A colleague mimicking the way a disabled employee walks or moves
- Harassment due to sexual orientation: An employee is called a derogatory slag term by his colleagues because they presume he is gay.
What Should I do If I am Being Harassed at Work?
Your employer has a duty to protect you whilst you are at work. This includes protection from harassment.
If you consider you are being harassed at work, you should raise your concerns with your manager as soon as possible. If your manager is the person who is harassing you, you should raise your concern with your HR Department or an independent manager. They may be able to resolve the situation informally.
If they are not able to resolve the matter informally, you should raise a formal grievance in respect of the behaviour you are experiencing. Once you have raised a formal grievance, your employer will have a duty to investigate your claims. Once they have carried out their investigation, they should provide you with a report which sets out their findings and any recommendations they intend to implement to protect you whilst you are at work.
For more information on Grievance procedure please see our website: https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/how-do-i-raise-a-grievance-about-work/
Employment Tribunal Claims and Time Limits
If the behaviour you have been subjected to meets the definition of Harassment (as discussed above) 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 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/