Workplace harassment and sexual harassment definitions can be found in section 14A of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015.
Harassment and sexual harassment.
14A. — (1) For the purposes of this Act, where —
( a ) an employee (in this section referred to as ‘ the victim ’ ) is harassed or sexually harassed either at a place where the employee is employed (in this section referred to as ‘ the workplace ’ ) or otherwise in the course of his or her employment by a person who is —
(i) employed at that place or by the same employer,
(ii) the victim’s employer, or
(iii) a client, customer or other business contact of the victim’s employer and the circumstances of the harassment are such that the employer ought reasonably to have taken steps to prevent it,
( b ) without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a) —
(i) such harassment has occurred, and
(ii) either —
(I) the victim is treated differently in the workplace or otherwise in the course of his or her employment by reason of rejecting or accepting the harassment, or
(II) it could reasonably be anticipated that he or she would be so treated, the harassment or sexual harassment constitutes discrimination by the victim’s employer in relation to the victim’s conditions of employment.
(2) If harassment or sexual harassment of the victim by a person other than his or her employer would, but for this subsection, be regarded as discrimination by the employer under subsection (1), it is a defence for the employer to prove that the employer took such steps as are reasonably practicable —
( a ) in a case where subsection (1)(a) applies (whether or not subsection (1)(b) also applies), to prevent the person from harassing or sexually harassing the victim or any class of persons which includes the victim, and
( b ) in a case where subsection (1)(b) applies, to prevent the victim from being treated differently in the workplace or otherwise in the course of the victim’s employment and, if and so far as any such treatment has occurred, to reverse its effects.
(3) A person’s rejection of, or submission to, harassment or sexual harassment may not be used by an employer as a basis for a decision affecting that person.
(4) The reference in subsection (1)(a)(iii) to a client, customer or other business contact of the victim’s employer includes a reference to any other person with whom the employer might reasonably expect the victim to come into contact in the workplace or otherwise in the course of his or her employment.
(5) In this section ‘ employee ’ includes an individual who is —
( a ) seeking or using any service provided by an employment agency, and
( b ) participating in any course or facility referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c) of section 12(1)
and accordingly any reference to the individual ’ s employer includes a reference to the employment agency providing the service or, as the case may be, the person offering or providing the course or facility.
(6) Where subsection (5) applies in relation to a victim, subsection (1) shall have effect as if for ‘ in relation to the victim ’ s conditions of employment ’ there were substituted ‘ contrary to section 11 ’ or, as the case may be, section 12 .
(7) ( a ) In this section —
(i) references to harassment are to any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds, and
(ii) references to sexual harassment are to any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,
being conduct which in either case has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.
( b ) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph ( a ), such unwanted conduct may consist of acts, requests, spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material. ]
At its essence harassment is any form of unwanted conducted related to any of the discriminatory grounds. (The 9 grounds of discrimination are family status, civil status, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, race, religious belief, membership of the Traveller community).
Sexual harassment is defined as any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
The unwanted conduct may consist of acts, spoken words, gestures, requests, pictures, or the circulation of other material and it is conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.
It is worth noting than an employee can suffer harassment from a colleague, the employer, or from a client, customer or business contact of the employer and the employer will be held vicariously liable.
The employer’s defence
The employer has a defence if he can prove he took steps that were reasonably practicable to prevent the harassment and to take steps to reverse the effects if it has occurred already.
Workplace bullying definition
There are many definitions of bullying, but it is widely accepted, including by the courts, that it is repeated inappropriate behavoour which offends a perssond dignity. The Health and Safety Authority definition 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.”
The code of practice prepared by the Labour Relations Commission on addressing bullying in the workplace defines bullying as,
“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. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying.” (Recommended by the Report by the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying published by the Stationery Office, March 2001)
It is vitally important to be clear about what constitutes harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying.
Management, for example, is not bullying although overly vigorous management which offends the employee’s dignity may well form part of a pattern of bullying. A one off incident, no matter how upsetting, is not bullying either.
And harassment, remember, must happen in respect of one of the 9 grounds of discrimination. If you claim that someone is harassing you you must be able to ground that unwanted conduct in one of the grounds of discrimination.