How to Deal with Bully at Work?
Written By
Karen Liebert

Examples of Bullying

These are some examples bullying behavior:

  • Ridiculing, demeaning or picking on someone
  • Overbearing supervision or misuse of power
  • Undermining a competent worker with constant criticism
  • Making threats about job security without foundation.
  • Excluding someone from meetings they would normally be expected to attend.
No Legal Definition

“Bullying” isn't a legal term. You can't bring a free-standing claim of bullying.  However, if you have been the victim of workplace bullying, you can maybe bring one of the claims below.

What to do if you are being bullied:

  • Read your company’s bullying/harassment policy, if there is one. This will set out the procedure to follow if you find yourself being bullied.
  • Tell the bully to stop – you could ask a work colleague to be present to witness this.
  • If this doesn’t work, send a formal grievance to your manager or other person in accordance with the bullying policy
  • Keep notes of any incidents, as close to the time of the incidents, including times, what happened and who witnessed it
  • After investigation, your employer may suggest mediation, counselling and/or disciplining the bullying employee
  • If you wish to make a legal claim, consider the possible claims below.

Possible Claims:

1. Harassment under the Equality Act 2010 (employment tribunal)
  • Harassment is unwanted conduct related to race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability or conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual
  • It must relate to a protected characteristic such as race or sex – otherwise it doesn't satisfy definition of harassment
  • If it is unreasonable for the conduct to have this effect, it is not harassment; an oversensitive employee who overreacts to particular conduct won't be protected
  • Examples of harassment include derogatory homophobic comments, teasing someone about their race, age or disability, unwelcome sexual advances, or asking for sexual favours
  • Harassment may be face-to-face, by phone, or through written communications.
  • It's best to bring a claim against the individual harasser and employer.
  • First, try and resolve the matter informally. If that fails, send in a written grievance.
  • Compensation from the tribunal includes injury to feelings and personal injury.
  • Claims in the employment tribunal are free and minimal risk of costs
  • Time limit for bringing claims is 3 months from last date of harassment
2. Constructive Dismissal (employment tribunal)
  • You can only bring a tribunal claim if you have resigned because of bullying
  • You need to have two years’ employment
  • Bullying may be a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence
  • The employer breaks the implied term of trust and confidence if, without reasonable cause, they conduct themselves in a manner calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage relationship of trust or confidence with employee
  • If the implied term of trust and confidence breaks, this gives you the right to resign and claim constructive dismissal. But:
  1. Conduct must be so serious that it destroys relationship of trust and confidence; harsh management style is not enough
  2. You must not delay before resigning
  3. Resignation must be because of the breach and not for some other reason
  • BEWARE – most constructive dismissal claims fail – often because employer’s conduct is not serious enough to destroy confidence
  • DO NOT RESIGN before taking legal advice
  • Resignation should normally be with immediate effect, not with notice
  • Send in a grievance before resigning, preferably with the benefit of legal advice – this can be used to negotiate a good exit package
  • Claims are free and there is a minimal risk of costs
  • Compensation is for financial loss only – does not cover injury to feelings or personal injury
  • Time limit for bringing claims is 3 months less 1 day from last day of employment
3. Harassment under Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (civil courts)
  • Expensive and rarely used
  • There must be a “course of conduct” that amounts to harassment– a one-off incident isn't enough
  • Threshold for such conduct to amount to harassment is extremely high
  • Harassment does not have to relate to a protected characteristic like race or sex
  • Time limit for bringing claims is 6 years
4. Personal injury claim (civil courts)
  • Claim is usually in negligence
  • Employer has duty of care to employee
  • Failure to protect employee from bullying may be breach of duty of care
  • Needs to be a recognisable psychiatric condition
  • Psychiatric injury must be foreseeable
  • Compensation will cover psychiatric damage resulting from bullying but not mere injury to feelings
  • Claims are not free
  • Risk of having to pay winner’s legal costs if you lose
  • Time limit for bringing claims is 3 years
If you would like to discuss your employment situation, Get in Touch with Us.
Disclaimer: This blog is for general information only.
Nothing on this blog constitutes formal legal advice or gives rise to a solicitor-client relationship.
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