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  • Writer's pictureBruce

Is an Employer Vicarious Liability Claim for Harassment Likely in your Business?

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Going to work should be a rewarding experience and a place of collaboration and teamwork. However, in some organisations Bullying, Intimidation and Harassment are endemic and left unchallenged by senior leaders, leaving the business wide open to an Employer Vicarious Liability Claim

A black bckground with a figure of a woman holding up a sign which reads "hashtag Me Too" Her face is covered by the sign
Me Too, Workplace Bullying

It does not just happen in the workplace either, bullying, harassment and intimidation takes place in everyday activities and in the most unlikely of places too. What is common about each place and case, is that there are victims and persecutors. It is not the same as the Karpman Drama Triangle, but has similarities, in so much that it is the perpetrator who has a serious emotional health problem not the victim.

I could write a book on this topic, however that is not the purpose of this blog post. The purpose of this post is to help the victim and the organisation learn that it is NOT OK to put up with it.

Some Facts:

  • Harassment is illegal, however surpisingly bullying is not!

  • One instance is enough, It does not have to be over a period of time!

  • Harassment is how you feel inside when it happens, not a tangible court room document

  • You do not have to justify why you "feel" the way you do!

  • Employer Vicarious Liability: Your Employer may be also liable in English Law

Often the victim will ruminate on the incident and this is wrong thinking. The more you ruminate on the situation and the event, the more danger you have in starting to justify why they have treated you in this way. If this starts to happened to you, make sure you use internal talk, as you would say to your best friend in if they where in this situation





Employer "Vicarious Liability" in English Law

In English Law, an employer may and therefore could be held liable for the actions of an employee if the actions of the employee are linked to their employment.

ACAS has a very interesting article on this matter read it here

Every employee has the right to protection from harassment and bullying through organisational top to bottom training, guidance and codes of conduct.

Neglect this at your peril!

Why do Victims Fail to report harassment?

There are many reasons why employees or victims fail to report and call out this behaviour. Some of the key ones from my experience are:

  • Fear:

    • Fear that they will not be believed

    • Fear of the business closing ranks

    • Fear of being seen as a troublemaker

    • Fear that the perpetrator will be treated leniently and will be back to make them pay for reporting them

  • Apathy

    • That the employer will not take action

    • That it is not worth the hassle, might has well just leave

Why do Employers Fail to Take Action against Perpetrators?

I have actually heard these being said...justifying this appalling behaviour of quite senior employees:

  • "Well that is just how he /she is!"

  • "He is our top sales guy!"

  • "Do you want to risk losing him?"

  • "She just wants to get the job done"

  • "We are all a team here and don't want to cause each other problems, do we?"

  • "He has a bit of a God Complex"

  • "I am not sure why we put up with it really"

Any form of harassment is not acceptable, the business or organisation will be undoubtedly suffering as this behaviour is like a dry rot, it gets into the fabric of the business and undermines its foundations. The best people will not hang around to be the next victim and customers do not want to be associated with Toxic firms.

Tackle it head on and ensure that harassment is not tolerated and is treated as a gross misconduct offence that it is.

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