Bulling at Work Injury Claim* – Workplace Bullying

Bullying, intimidation, as well as harassment in the workplace can be damaging to an employees health and the stress caused can jeopardise not only the individual’s performance at work and wellbeing, but also adversely affect their livelihood.

Examples of bullying conduct in the Workplace:

  • Using obscene language towards another;
  • Tarnishing and manipulating someones reputation;
  • Undermining someone on purpose;
  • Constantly intimidating an individual;
  • Giving duties and assignments that are unfavourable and unreasonable to an individual;
  • Teasing and jokes that are offensive to the person;
  • Intimidation;
  • Privacy intrusion by stalking or spying on someone;
  • Giving an employee impossible tasks or impossible deadlines.

Legal Definition of Bullying:

The Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace) Declaration Order 2002 set out the definition of bullying as :

“Workplace Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying.”1

The implication of this is that the inappropriate behaviour at work must be of a nature that is not a one off event, but instead is behaviour that is consistent forming a pattern which undermines an employees right to dignity at work. The pattern of behaviour is designed to intimidate and/or undermine an employee.

Employer’s Responsibilities:

An employer has legal common law duties and statutory duties to their employees in respect of their safety, health, and welfare while at the workplace. Section 8 of the 2005 Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act states that an employer must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees. This is a positive, active and on-going duty imposed on employers.

An employer’s duty can extend to many areas but very briefly an employer should ensure a safe place and safe system of work exists in the workplace for all employees. Safe systems etc. must be implemented and not simply specified as required in a risk assessment.

Legal Remedy

There are conditions which must be met before one can embark a personal injuries* legal action where the employee is injured at work as a result of bullying:

  • the employees injury must be either physical in nature or a recognisable psychiatric illness diagnosed by a Psychiatrist;
  • the personal injury* caused by the bullying must have taken place in the workplace;
  • the conduct of the employer must be unreasonable and without proper cause, which is judged objectively;
  • the injured employee must prove that the bullying behaviour caused the injury and this was reasonably foreseeable by the employer.

The foreseeability test is very important in these actions and the question of what the employer did know, or ought to have known will he investigated thoroughly.

Legal Time Limits

In personal injury* cases the legal time limit to bring a case is within two years of the date of the first incident, which needs to be correctly indentified. This can prove very problematic in bullying legal actions as bullying by it’s nature occurs over time and there are many incidents. This must be considered carefully when taking such a legal action.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is work related stress a personal injury ?

Many places of employment generate stress that are simply a consequence of the nature of the job, or due to particular personalities in the workplace.

However if the employee sustains emotional distress at work that constitutes a personal injury, then the next question is if the employer is liable for this circumstance ?.

There are conditions which must be met before one can embark on a personal injuries* legal action where one sustains emotional distress.

For example, if the distress is due to a work situation, one should apply the facts to the following questions.

  • Is the employees injury either physical in nature or a recognisable psychiatric illness diagnosed by a Psychiatrist ?;
  • Was the personal injury* caused by the bullying in the workplace ? for example;
  • Did the bullying occur in the workplace ?;
  • Was the conduct of the employer unreasonable and without proper cause, which is judged objectively ?;
  • Can the injured employee prove that the bullying behaviour caused the injury and was this reasonably foreseeable ?.

The foreseeability test is very important in these actions and the question of what the employer did know, or ought to have known will he investigated thoroughly.

How do you deal with bullying at work ?

The answer is dependant on the individual person, but the matter should be reported to the employer who then should stop the behaviour and carry out an investigation with the input of the employee.

The matter gets more complicated if it is the employer or person in power who is conducting the bullying, and if the employees they cannot deal with the matter internally with any success, it may be useful to talk to your solicitor about the options available to you who might be able to assist you.

Bullying at Work – Employers Responsibilites

Employers have a common law duty of care and there are many statutory duties in place regarding employers obligations to employees in terms of safety in the workplace.

Employers have an obligation under Section 8 of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act regarding duties owed to the employee in terms of well being and safety.

Bullying at Work Definition

This is mentioned above.

Cyber Bulling at Work

If this arises the person will most likely be able to retain the evidence as any social media networks or email chains can be retained.

DISCLAIMER

Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute.

Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.

Personal Injuries * In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

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