Harassment/Bullying in the Workplace
There are times in the workplace when we can feel bullied, threatened or even harassed. Harassment under the Equality Act 2010 is considered to be illegal and should not be tolerated at any cost.
Whilst bullying and harassment may not always be obvious to those around you, it is your personal experience which defines the inappropriate behaviour.
What counts as harassment/bullying in the workplace?
Workplace bullying can fall under many definitions but it is commonly defined as offensive behaviour towards an individual or groups of employees; this behaviour is often persistent and unnecessary. It can include attacks on professional performance or personal attributes.
Many workplace harassment/bullying cases will involve an abuse of power. Due to this, many employees will feel reluctant to report out of fear of making the situation worse.
Specific examples include:
- Verbal abuse
- Sexual jokes
- Spreading rumours
- Unfair treatment
- Blocking promotion opportunities unfairly
- Delving deeply into your personal life
All of these things can happen face-to-face, over the phone, via email, social media and any other form of contact.
What is harassment under discrimination law?
For all claims of harassment you must be able to prove it was unwanted behaviour, labelled as ‘unwanted conduct’. You must also show that even if the person made you feel uncomfortable unintentionally, that it was reasonable you felt that way.
In addition, you must show that your harassment was covered by three different types:
- Unwanted conduct relating to a ‘protected characteristic’ like sex or race
- Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature
- Unwanted conduct by ‘being treated less favourably’
This type of harassment is covered under Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010.
What to do if you are being bullied at work
Before consulting with a legal professional, employees should see if they can first mediate the problem themselves informally. If not, they should talk to a manager, HR, or trade union representative.
If after all these avenues, they have come up short, they should then seek a professional employment solicitor.