Bullying in the Workplace and Stress Related Injuries.
Bullying in the workplace is a common query that we receive at Tracey Solicitors. The most common questions are related to what is an employee to do if they are been harassed or bullied at work or what constitutes bullying the workplace.
What constitutes bullying in the workplace?
The definition of 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.”
Types of bullying at work?
The primary types of bullying in the workplace are:
- targeting someone for special negative treatment
- manipulation of an individual‘s reputation,
- social exclusion or isolation at work
- intimidation in the workplace
- aggressive or obscene language at work
- repeated requests with impossible work deadline or tasks.
What to do if you are bullied at work.
If you are being bullied in your workplace, your first port of call should be to refer to your grievance procedure in your contract of employment, your employer is obliged to furnish to you a contract of employment under the Terms of Employment Act 1994 at the commencement of employment.
The purpose of the grievance procedure is for the employee to address the difficulties they are having with another employee to the employer. The employer is obliged to carry out an investigation to try and resolve the issues between the parties. If the grievance is with the employer, there is usually provision for the complaint to be made to another member of staff.
How to make a complaint about bullying at work?
Under most grievance procedures there are two ways to make a complaint, that is “informal” and “formal”. We would always advise that if you are to make a complaint that you would do so “formally”.
The formal complaint procedure normally requires the employee to write out the complaint, in this case, that you are being bullied at work by a co-worker and send it to the employer. The employer is then under a duty to carry out a full investigation in order to resolve the matter so that the bullying ceases.
In our experience, if you are being bullied in the workplace, if you do not take positive action, the bullying will continue.
What many people do not consider is that most employees who experience bullying in the workplace may suffer from extreme stress due to the bullying and may require assistance from their Doctor.
What if my employer fails to deal with my complaint?
Employers have a duty of care to all employees, to ensure they are both mentally and physically safe at work and that their health is not adversely affected by work. This duty of care means employers must behave and react reasonably in relation to such matters.
If the bullying becomes unbearable and you are forced to leave your job, you may be entitled to claim that you were “constructively dismissed”. This means that although you left your job voluntarily, in reality, you were forced to do so because of the way that you were being treated.
An employee should seek advice from a Solicitor to consider whether a constructive dismissal scenario may exist before leaving their job.
It is important to note that if an employee leaves a job and would like to pursue a claim for a constructive dismissal against the employer, the appropriate place to lodge the claim against the employer is the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the employee must lodge their claim within six months of the date that they leave their job.
Psychological injuries related to workplace bullying
If an employee has suffered a psychological injury as a result of stress from being bullied in the workplace, the employee can consider a possible personal injury action against the employer.
Personal injury cases against employers for psychological injuries suffered in the workplace are pursued through the Courts.
These cases can be hard to win as the employee has to show that the employer failed to deal with the “formal complaint” adequately or not at all, in failing to do so, the Employer breached the duty of care to the employee in failing to keep the employee mentally and physically safe at work.
In order for an employee to successfully succeed in their action against the employer, the employee must produce evidence from other employees to verify what occurred and also strong medical evidence from their GP or Psychologist.
If an employee is experiencing bullying in the workplace it is important that the employee keeps a record or diary of the bullying and the employer’s actions to resolve the issue.
For a confidential chat please feel free to call Piarais Neary at Tracey Solicitors on 01 649 9900 and he will do his very best to legally help you through this difficult time.