Legally all employers are obliged to prevent harassment or bullying at work. A co-worker, your boss or a superior, a client, a customer or any business contact can bully you. Harassment or bullying can happen at work, on a training course, on a work trip or at a work social event.
An example of harassment at work is a boss who always sets you impossible targets or abuses their position by undermining your confidence or humiliating you in front of other people. Bullying at work can take the form of verbal or physical harassment, verbal abuse, social exclusion and isolation. It can also involve gossip and rumours that damage your reputation.
If the harassment or bullying is so bad that you leave your job or your health suffers, then you might be entitled to claim compensation from your employer. Employers are thankfully beginning to take steps to make bullying as unthinkable as physical abuse or drunkenness in the workplace.
For more information on forms of harassment, please consult https://spunout.ie/life/article/deal-with-harassment
IS BULLYING COMMON AT WORK?
Bullying is far more common than other types of harassment such as sexual harassment or discrimination on the grounds of religion or the colour of your skin. Although no statistics are yet available, it’s been estimated that two in five, or 40%, of Irish workers have been bullied in the workplace.
Workplace bullies create a huge liability for the employer by causing stress-related health and safety problems and driving good workers out of the company.
That is why the Irish Government passed the Employment Equality Act 1998, which places a legal responsibility on all employers in Ireland to prevent harassment in the workplace. If you bring a claim against your employer under the act, you cannot then be treated badly at work because of the claim.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE
• You may be physically or emotionally harassed by someone in the workplace.
• You may be ignored or made to feel isolated from your work mates.
• Your work might be subjected to unreasonable examination.
• Your personal reputation may be damaged by gossip or rumours.
• A boss or manager may be abusing a position of power that he or she has over you; for example, giving you a task or work target that you can’t possibly meet.
DEALING WITH A BULLY AT WORK
If you are being harassed, bullied or intimidated by someone or a group of people:
• Tell a friend or work colleague what’s happening; don’t try to deal with the bullying alone. The more support you have the better.
• Keep a record of every bullying episode that happens; note the time, place, what happened and if anyone else was a witness.
• First make it clear to the person who is harassing you that it’s unacceptable and offensive. You can do that in person or in writing. Keep a copy of the email or letter.
• If this is too difficult or you’re frightened, ask a colleague or friend to support you and to be with you when you confront the bully. Report the harassment to a manager or someone in authority. If a boss or senior is harassing you, then make the complaint to somebody else in charge.
• If there is a complaints procedure at work, you should find out how it works and then use it. If you feel they are not taking your complaints seriously, you will probably need to get help from an outside source.
• Talk to a doctor if you’re suffering from stress because of the harassment. Get a medical report as proof of the damage to your health.
If the bullying becomes unbearable and you are forced to leave your job, you may be entitled to claim you were “constructively dismissed”.
Bullying can have a huge impact on your life and education/training abilities, so it is very important not to remain in a bullied position.
You should get legal advice before leaving your job.
An employer can’t punish you if you report them for harassment or discrimination. This means it’s illegal for them to fire you or treat you differently after you make a formal complaint.
Contact a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for more information.
THIS column represents a year since we introduced the health page to the paper. Thanks to Owen Brennan and Devenish Nutrition for their unstinting support, and Dr Adrian McGoldrick for his tireless work to improve the lot of all who work in the industry and who gives unwavering encouragement and support.