Harassment is the legal term for unwanted conduct that relates to any of the protected characteristics of discrimination listed in the Equality Act 2010 such as age, religion/belief, sexual orientation, sex, race, disability or maternity.
It should not be confused with the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which covers harassment and its place within criminal law.
Under the Equality Act 2010 Harassment is defined as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’.
If you are encountering harassment at work (be it offensive comments being made to you directly or graffiti/posters relating to you which you find distressing etc) based on a protected characteristic then you might potentially have a claim.
Steps to take before making a claim
If you have been subjected to treatment at work which you consider amounts to harassment then please feel free to call us for free advice on 020 3923 4777.
Before considering legal action, you might prefer to deal with the matter internally either informally or through the grievance process. You are not obliged to do this before making a claim to an Employment Tribunal. Whatever you decide to do please remember that you only have three months less one day from the last act that you complain of to make a claim for harassment.
Sometime it is a good idea to try to talk to the person who is making life difficult for you. You could also consider sending an email or asking a colleague to speak up on your behalf. This often resolves the situation because a great deal of harassment is unintentional.
Don’t forget that the law applies whether or not the person who is engaging in unwanted conduct intends to be offensive or not. An employment tribunal will only consider whether it is reasonable for a person to feel offended and upset by the conduct that they are complaining about. That view is not based on the perception of the perpetrator or whether other people in the workplace are happy with the situation, it is based on the victims feelings.
If this does not work and the harassment continues please call us for further advice on 020 3923 4777. You do not have to but you might consider making a formal grievance about the harassment that you are experiencing.
To submit a grievance you should check your company handbook or your contract to check for the correct procedure. If you can’t find anything helpful on the subject then just write a formal letter to the person you consider most appropriate to deal with your grievance. Once you have submitted the grievance there should then be a prompt investigation into the matter and hopefully a result which will be in your favour.
Harassment and Discrimination Time Limits
If the grievance does not come out in your favour or you choose not to take any informal or formal steps then you could consider making a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
You should however consider time limits when thinking about making a claim.
For a discrimination claim linked to your harassment you need to make the claim within 3 months less one day of the last act of discrimination. This is incredibly important to bear in mind, because if it goes past this date you will not be able to make a claim.
You should also make sure that you do not leave it too long after the grievance to submit a claim for harassment or constructive dismissal. Otherwise a tribunal might view it as accepting the breach or result of the grievance and therefore be less likely to be successful.
If you feel you are suffering harassment at work and you are considering a claim please do not hesitate to call us on 020 3923 4777. Our team will be able to advise you on the next steps to be taken and whether you have a claim. Your call will be treated in the strictest confidence.