Harassment at Work
Sexual and racial harassment has recently hit the headlines. Wimbledon and central London based specialist employment solicitor legal practice, Remedy Solicitors, looks at the law surrounding harassment.
It is the Equality Act 2010 that gives workers protection from discrimination and harassment on “protected characteristics”. Protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation.
Harassment is unwanted conduct that relates to one of the protected characteristics and which has the effect of violating dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
In practical terms, the unwanted conduct could be abusive spoken words, written abuse such as offensive emails or web comments, physical gestures, facial expressions and jokes.
If the conduct is intentional, it is most probably going to be found to be harassment by a court or tribunal.
If the conduct was unintentional, it could still amount to harassment. The legal test is whether the conduct could reasonably be considered as having the effect of violating dignity etc. The victim’s point of view is relevant but the court or tribunal will decide, taking into account all the evidence.
The remedies from an employment tribunal for a worker are usually compensation, which can include injury to feelings. Where a worker has been subjected to harassment, it is not uncommon for the misdemeanour to be settled through a settlement agreement. The costs and stress of taking a case to an employment tribunal provide the incentives for workers to accept financial offers for settlement rather than pursue the matter through to a tribunal hearing. Settlement agreements generally are on a without admission of liability basis and have a confidentiality clause.
This blog was written by Ashok Kanani, employment solicitor and business owner of Remedy Solicitors, a legal practice based in central London and Wimbledon.