Harassment in the workplace is probably one of the most publicised areas of harassment law. Newspapers frequently carry stories about Employment Tribunal cases involving allegations of sexual or racial harassment of employees.

The reason why these cases have all revolved around sex or race is because of the fact that until the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 there was no legislation in force specifically prohibiting harassment as such. However since 1975/76 there has been specific legislation in force prohibiting sexual and racial discrimination and cases of sexual or racial harassment have been dealt with by the courts on the basis that sexual or racial harassment is in fact sexual or racial discrimination. From a technical legal standpoint therefore the important point in these cases has not so much been the harassment itself but rather the fact that the harassment was sexually or racially motivated.

An informative article covering the use of Discrimination law in Harassment cases is
'Harassment, Discrimination in Interpretation' by Adele Sinclair 1 WebJCLI 1998

For further information regarding Sex Discrimination go to

For further information regarding Race Discrimination go to

Similar provisions now apply to discrimination based on disability

Persons who have been harassed at work simply because they have fallen foul of another worker or manager or because of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs cannot claim to have been the victim of sexual or racial discrimination. This does not however mean that they are completely helpless from a legal point of view. If they have been subjected to such a degree of harassment that they have to leave their employment then they can claim compensation from an Employment Tribunal on the grounds that they have been the victim of ‘constructive dismissal’.

Click here to read The Employment Rights Act 1996 which sets out the rights of employees in cases of constructive dismissal (section 95) and the rights of employers to dismiss employees who engage in harassment of fellow employees (section 98)

TIME LIMITS for bringing cases before an Employment Tribunal are tight and claims must be brought within 3 months of the date of the last incident complained of (Discrimination Cases) or 3 months from the effective date of termination of employment (Constructive Dismissal).

For further information on Employment Law generally go to The Employment Law Internet Site.


The Protection from Harassment Act 1997

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 has created a new means by which victims of harassment in the work place can obtain compensation. Most discussion regarding the Protection from Harassment Act has tended to concentrate on its criminal offences and use of Injunctions. It is however important to remember that section 3(2) of the act allows civil courts to award damages to victims of harassment for

‘(amongst other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment’.

If someone is harassed at their place of work they could decide to sue their employer for damages using the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 rather than by going to an Employment Tribunal. In some circumstances this route could be simpler particularly if there could be technical arguments as to whether they were an employee or a self employed contractor. Those employment law technicalities would not be relevant in any legal claim under the act. All that would be relevant is the fact that the harassment occurred, the damage it caused and whether the employer was vicariously liable for permitting, or not preventing the Harassment. The Law relating to Vicarious Liability was clarified and extended by the House of Lords in the case of Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2001] UKHL 22 and following this in the case of Majrowski v. Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Trust [2006] UKHL 34  the House of Lords held that an Employer would be vicariously liable under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for damages arising from Harassment of an employee by other employees. The Time Limit for bringing a claim for damages under section 3 of The Protection from Harassment Act 1997. is 6 years which is far longer than the 3 month time time limit for bringing claims for Racial or Sexual Discrimination.

Click here to read An article from The Guardian 8th December 1998
(Written by Neil Addison and Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden and dealing with The Protection from Harassment Act and bullying at work ).


Workplace Bullying

Trades Unions have become increasingly concerned about bullying and harassment in the work place. In 1998 the Trades Union Congress ran an extensive campaign dealing with the subject and in 1999 the Industrial Society published a valuable book ‘Harassment Bullying and Violence at Work’ dealing with the problem.

I provide training for businesses on how to avoid harassment claims and also advise on and draft anti-harassment policies and guidelines. Both of these can be worthwhile investments. It may help to save the business money in settling claims as well as helping to avoid the bad publicity such claims always generate.

·  E-mail   NEIL ADDISON     at     Harassment Law ·