Bullying and Harassment

Harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the Employment Equality Act 1998. Employers must also prevent staff from being bullied under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989.

Workplace bullying is the repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical, or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and /or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as underminining the individualís right to dignity at work. An isolated incident may be an affront to dignity at work but as a once off incident is not considered to be bullying.

Bullying can involve physical abuse or threats of abuse, loud voiced criticism or obsenities, using rumour, gossip or ridicule to undermine an employee, overloading an employee with work, withholding information or setting meaningless tasks as well as social exclusion or isolation.

Harassment can involve words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of material which are unwelcome to a person and could reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating. Sexual harassment is defined as: acts of physical intimacy, requests for sexual favours, words or gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words or pictures which are unwelcome to a person and could reasonably be regarded as sexually offensive, humiliating or intimidating to that person.

Under the Equal Status Act 2000, employers also have a duty to ensure that clients are protected from harassment by employees.

Bullying or harassment can have a serious impact on a personís well-being. It can cause psychological and physiological damage. People affected by this can change from being happy and confident at work to being isolated and withdrawn. It can also lead to greater levels of absenteeism and sick leave.

If an employee has a complaint about bullying, a claim for Ďconstructive dismissalí may also be taken under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. If there is a sexual or discriminatory element, a claim may be taken under the Employment Equality Act.

Reviewed: September 28, 2006