Claims involving harassment and bullying at work are complicated because there is often a very significant overlap with the law of employment, so a solicitor must be mindful that legal remedies and redress can arise both in the field of personal injury law and in the field of employment law.
Sexual, racial, disability-related and age-related harassment can amount to unlawful discrimination and if a personal injury, that is, a mental injury or depressive type condition, is caused, there can be claims both for the injury itself and for the unlawful discrimination.
Discrimination can be direct (where less favourable treatment occurs for the prohibited reason) or indirect (where an apparently neutral feature of the work/workplace or job puts a protected group at a particular disadvantage compared to other persons and such is not justified.)
Aside from cases of unlawful discrimination, the law relating to bullying and harassment in a workplace comes from a number of sources:-
- Employment Rights Act 1996 which allows an employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal for breach of the contract of employment
- The general law of negligence, which imposes a duty upon an employer to provide a safe system of work. An employer can be responsible for bullying performed by another employee under the rule of “vicarious liability”
- The Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This statute was intended to deal with the problem of “stalkers” but it also creates a liability to pay compensation for harassment and makes harassment a criminal offence
Sometimes, however, an employee can suffer stress without any bullying or unlawful discrimination being involved; perhaps the workload is simply too much to cope with. Anyone looking to bring a stress claim must consider the case of Walker and the case of Hatton where guidelines were laid down which a prospective claimant has to cross in order to bring a successful claim.
PLEASE NOTE – IT IS UNLIKELY WE WOULD AGREE TO RUN A BULLYING/STRESS AT WORK CLAIM UNDER A NO WIN NO FEE AGREEMENT UNLESS A CLIENT IS PREPARED TO FUND THE INITIAL INVESTIGATION STEPS AND CALL TO SEE US AT OUR NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE OFFICES SO WE CAN, OVER THE COURSE OF ONE OR MORE MEETINGS, PROPERLY ASSESS THE CLAIM. LEGAL AID IS UNLIKELY TO BE GRANTED FOR THESE CASES.