Harassment in the workplace is not only unpleasant but potentially extremely costly for employers who are deemed vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. Harassment occurs where;
A person (‘A’) harasses another person (‘B’) if:
- 'A' engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic; and
- The conduct has the purpose or effect of:
- Violating B’s dignity
- Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B
The protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Importantly then it is not only behaviour that has the purpose of offending the other but harassment also occurs where the person is offended, humiliated, degraded etc. The effect then is arguably the most important factor in all harassment claims and employers need to be very careful when dealing with cases of ‘office banter’ as what is acceptable and even funny to others may not be to all.
If you are an employer and have been accused of harassment or have received an allegation that an employee is harassing another please contact Nockolds' Employment Team on 01279 755777 or get in touch with Gary Smith, Partner in our Employment Team.