Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating someone else’s dignity; or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person. The conduct must be related to a relevant ‘protected characteristic’ i.e. a person’s sex, race, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status.

Harassment often taken to mean any behaviour towards another that is perceived as offensive. However it has quite specific meanings in UK employment law and is a form of discrimination. There are other legal protections against harassment in the workplace, such as the Protection from Harassment legislation, which creates criminal offences as well as civil rights to claim in the courts.

Example: David’s colleagues find out that he is gay. Between themselves and in David’s hearing, they engage in a great deal of banter using the word ‘poofter’ and other similar terms. David wins his claim in the employment tribunal, successfully arguing that this behaviour amounted to the creation of a humiliating and offensive environment.

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Updates: For employers: Bullying and harassment | For employees: Grievances and raising your complaint |

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