The first point to make about workplace harassment is that its definition in employment law is different to most people’s idea of what harassment actually is. As with the other types of discrimination listed above, harassment needs to relate to a protected characteristic.

What is the legal test?

A person is said to harass another if they:

“Engage in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either: violating the Claimant’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the Claimant”.

The protected characteristics that apply in harassment cases are: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The Act is worded so that even if a person does not intend their conduct to be harassment it still can be if it has the effect of creating a humiliating environment for the Claimant, for example.

An example

A Claimants manager tells him “I believe older people are generally worse at their jobs and make more mistakes than younger people”. The Claimant is over the age of 60 and does not appreciate this remark. In saying this to the Claimant his manager has caused the Claimant to feel degraded and humiliated as he is an older member of staff.

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