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Bullying, Stress & Harassment in the Workplace


Bullying, Stress & Harassment in the Workplace

 

I.        Introduction

 

Workplace Bullying is defined as “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.”

 

Harassment is discriminatory treatment of one person by another because of a particular characteristic which is protected by the Employment Equality Acts 1998- 2011. The Acts 1998-2011 define harassment as “unwanted conduct” which is related to any of the 9 discriminatory grounds. Sexual harassment is any form of “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”. In both cases it is defined as 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” and it is prohibited under the Acts.

 

The “unwanted conduct” includes spoken words, gestures or the production and display of written words, pictures and other material. This includes offensive gestures or facial expressions, unwelcome and offensive calendars, screen-savers, e-mails and any other offensive material.

 

Stress is defined by the Labour Relations Commission as a state, which is accompanied by physical, psychological or social complaints or dysfunctions and which results from individuals feeling unable to bridge a gap with the requirements or expectations placed on them.

 

In general, if the employer is:

 

a)     aware that the employee is at risk of bullying/harassment and

 

b)    fails to have adequate protective systems in place and

 

c)     the employer is informed of psychiatric condition (eg stress certificate from doctor)

 

d)    then the employer will be liable.

 

 

 

 

 

II.        The Test

 

In brief, the test outlined by Laffoy J in McGrath v Trintech Technologies Ltd [2005] and refined by Clarke J in Maher v  Jabil Global Services Ltd [2005], (adopted by the Supreme Court in Berber v Dunnes Stores Ltd [2009] ) identifies the following main questions to be addressed in any case for personal injury arising out of bullying, harassment and stress at work:-

 

Has the employee suffered an injury to her health as opposed to what may be described as ordinary occupational stress?

Personal injury must be an identifiable psychiatric injury. In order to satisfy this element of the test, it would appear that the Plaintiff would have to rely on a medical report to establish a recognised psychiatric condition, capable of amounting to an identifiable psychiatric injury.

 

If so, is that injury attributable to the workplace?

This element requires proof that excessively stressful conditions, bullying or harassment occurred and that there was a causative link between that behaviour and the injury.  Work place bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.  An objective analysis of the treatment complained of is undertaken.

 

It appears that an employee should keep a diary of the conditions in the workplace and keep precise details of any complaint made to the employer. Supporting evidence or corroboration by colleagues would also be necessary. It also appears that the medical report would have to make a causal link between the bullying or stress and the injury claimed (as per Quigley).

 

If so, was the harm suffered by the employee concerned reasonably foreseeable in all the circumstances?

In this regard it is necessary to analyse the factual background in light of what are known as the “Hatton propositions”.  These put a good deal of responsibility on the employee to draw to the attention of his employer (a) the nature of the difficulties and (b) that the difficulties are having an adverse effect on their health.

 

The employer owes a duty of care to each individual employee and foreseeability therefore depends on what the employer knew or ought reasonably to have known about the individual employee.

 

It would be necessary to outline the details of what, if any, complaint the employee made to the employer and what steps the employee took to highlight the issue, bringing it to the attention of her employer.

 

If so, did the employer fall below the standard of a reasonable and prudent employer in addressing the needs of that particular employee?

It is necessary to consider what the employer not only could have done but should have done in the circumstances. With regard to the issue of standard of duty of care, it appears from the Berber case that even if stress was foreseeable, if the employer acted reasonably then injury was not so foreseeable.

 

The standard is that of a reasonable and prudent employer. It is necessary to consider what steps were taken by the employer to ascertain and address any issue that the employee may be having.

 

III.        Statutory Duty

 

Harassment is separate and distinct to bullying and workplace stress and is dealt with under the Employment Equality Act 1998 – 2011. Section 15 of the Act provides a defence for employers where they have taken ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to prevent the harassment or prevent them from being treated differently in the workplace.

 

An employer’s duty of care to look after the health and safety of employees includes the reasonable prevention of bullying and stress related injuries in the work place. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to address stress in the workplace and have a safety management system in place. This requires carrying out a risk assessment and preparing a safety statement which is to include the risk of bullying. Section 8(2) of the 2005 Act requires employers and managers to prevent ‘improper conduct’ likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of employees at risk.

 

The Health and Safety Authority sets out a number of situations in which workplace stress can arise including: poor communication at work, poor working relationships, ill-defined work roles and lack of personal control over work.  An employer does not have to provide a stress-free environment; however, they are obliged to take reasonably practicable steps to shield employees from exposure to stress and from the consequences of unreasonably stressful working conditions. The law requires risks to be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

 

The following questions may be addressed in ascertaining an employer’s compliance with legal requirements:-

 

–         What safety management system is in place (as required by Section 8 (2)(b), (d) of the 2005 Act)?

 

–         Has a risk assessment taken place under Section 19 of the 2005 Act?

 

–         Is there a safety statement under Section 20 of the 2005 Act?

 

–         Are there any policies specifically on bullying? Bullying policies are essential in the defence of a claim.

 

–         What is the formal grievance procedure? Access to management is essential. Notably, the employee can claim that the culture in the workplace was such that they didn’t feel like they could take a complaint.

 

–         Was the employer aware of the significant stress levels? If so, what steps did they take to address it? Best practice is to relieve the employee of his or her duties on full salary and obtain advice from health professionals where the employer becomes aware that the employee is subject to work related stress.

 

The Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Workplace Bullying issued in 2007 reinforces the employer’s duty to ‘prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any improper conduct or behavior likely to put the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees at risk’. It recommends an informal resolution process and a formal complaints procedure. Examples of bullying include exclusion with negative consequences, verbal abuse, being treated less favourably than colleagues, intimidation, undermining behaviour, and excessive monitoring of work.

 

Importantly, a one off incident is not considered to be bullying. There are a number of workplace factors which act as red flags to employers for a risk of workplace bullying. These include high staff turnover, changes in the workplace, work relationships, withholding work related information and hierarchies. Following a risk assessment, the employer is required to draw up a Bullying Prevention Policy.

 

 

 

IV.        Case Law

 

 

 

1.     Curran v Cadbury (Ireland) Ltd [2000]                   [STRESS]

In the Circuit Court, McMahon J, relying on the English case of Walker v Northumberland County Council [1995], held that the duty of the employer to his employee extends to protecting the employee from non-physical injury such as psychiatric illness or mental illness which may arise from negligence or from harassment or bullying in the workplace.

 

Foreseeability is a key aspect in the case law. In Walker, the English courts imposed liability where the employee foreseeably suffered a nervous breakdown because of unreasonably stressful working conditions. Similarly in Curran, McMahon J held that the employer should have foreseen the possibility of psychiatric illness having unwittingly restarted a machine which had been stopped for repair with a colleague inside. It should not have been possible to restart the machine and it was foreseeable that the breach could cause ‘great fright’.

 

2.     Hatton v Sutherland [2002]                                             [STRESS]

In each of four conjoined appeals, the defendant employer appealed against a finding of liability for an employee’s psychiatric illness caused by stress at work. Two of the claimants were teachers in public sector comprehensive schools; the third was an administrative assistant at a local authority training centre; while the fourth was a raw material operative in a factory.

 

In the first two appeals, the claimants had not told their employers that their health was suffering due to overwork. In contrast, the claimant in the third appeal, J, had twice formally complained to her employer that her health was being harmed by problems at work, but no extra help had been provided even though the employer had acknowledged that such help should have been provided. In the fourth appeal, the claimant had been unable to cope with a reorganisation at work, but had not informed his employer that his doctor had advised him to change his job.

 

On the appeals, the Court of Appeal considered the principles that governed such claims. In particular, it considered whether they were subject to any special control mechanisms or whether the ordinary principles of employer’s liability applied; the factors to be taken into account by the court in determining whether the harm was reasonably foreseeable; whether any occupations were to be regarded as so inherently stressful that resulting physical or psychological harm was always foreseeable; the circumstances in which the employer would be in breach of his duty; causation; and the apportionment of damages in cases where the harm suffered had more than one cause.

 

Held –

 

(1)   There were no special control mechanisms applying to claims for psychiatric (or physical) illness or injury arising from the stress of doing the work that the employee was required to do. The ordinary principles of employer’s liability applied.

 

(2)   The threshold question was whether the particular kind of harm— an injury to health (as distinct from occupational stress) which was attributable to stress at work (as distinct from other factors)—to the particular employee was reasonably foreseeable.

 

(3)   Foreseeability depended upon what the employer knew or ought reasonably to have known about the individual employee. Because of the nature of mental disorder, it was harder to foresee than physical injury, but might be easier to foresee in a known individual than in the population at large. An employer was usually entitled to assume that the employee could withstand the normal pressures of his job unless he knew of some particular problem or vulnerability.

 

(4)   The test was the same whatever the employment: there were no occupations which should be regarded as intrinsically dangerous to mental health.

 

(5)   Factors likely to be relevant in answering the threshold question included:

 

the nature and extent of the work done by the employee, and

signs from the employee of impending harm to health.

(6)   The employer was generally entitled to take what he was told by his employee at face value, unless he had good reason to think the contrary. He did not generally have to make searching inquiries of the employee or seek permission to make further inquiries of his medical advisors.

 

(7)   To trigger a duty to take steps, the indications of impending harm to health arising from stress at work had to be plain enough for any reasonable employer to realise that he should do something about it.

 

(8)   The employer would only be in breach of duty if he had failed to take the steps which were reasonable in the circumstances, bearing in mind the magnitude of the risk of harm occurring, the gravity of the harm which might occur, the costs and practicability of preventing it and the justifications for running the risk.

 

(9)   The size and scope of the employer’s operation, its resources, and the demands it faced were relevant in deciding what was reasonable: those included the interests of other employees and the need to treat them fairly, for example, in any redistribution of duties.

 

(10) An employer could only reasonably be expected to take steps which were likely to do some good, and the court was likely to need expert evidence on that.

 

(11) An employer who offered a confidential advice service, with referral to appropriate counselling or treatment services, was unlikely to be found in breach of duty.

 

(12) If the only reasonable and effective step would have been to dismiss or demote the employee, the employer would not be in breach of duty in allowing a willing employee to continue in the job.

 

(13) In all cases, therefore, it was necessary to identify the steps which the employer both could and should have taken before finding him in breach of his duty of care.

 

(14) The claimant had to show that the breach of duty had caused or materially contributed to the harm suffered. It was not enough to show that occupational stress had caused the harm.

 

(15) Where the harm suffered had more than one cause, the employer should only pay for that proportion of the harm suffered which was attributable to his wrongdoing, unless the harm was truly indivisible. It was for the defendant to raise the question of apportionment.

 

(16) The assessment of damages would take account of any pre-existing disorder or vulnerability and of the chance that the claimant would have succumbed to a stress-related disorder in any event

 

 

 

3.     McGrath v Trintech Technologies Ltd [2005]                                [STRESS]

The English decision of Hatton v Sutherland [2002] set out 16 practical principles in determining liability for stress-induced psychiatric injury in an employment context. These were approved by Justice Laffoy in McGrath. The plaintiff in this case was seconded to Uruguay where he claimed he suffered considerable work-related stress and pressure. When he returned from Uruguay, he was absent on certified sick leave and was subsequently made redundant. Justice Laffoy held that Mr McGrath had not met the foreseeability threshold.

 

Evidence was given based on the employer’s knowledge of the employee’s pre-existing physical condition. The employer accepted that the plaintiff suffered injury that was attributable, in part at least, to stress at work, but rejected that same was foreseeable. The employer gave evidence that all of the personnel of the employer involved in trying to manage the crises in Uruguay were under stress and pressure and they handled it.

 

The court was satisfied that the senior management in Dublin did not subject the plaintiff to any greater pressure than any other member of the management team or to unreasonable demands. The plaintiff did not inform the employer of his illness in Uruguay. There was no warning that the plaintiff was prone to psychological injury attributable to work-related stress. The plaintiff had made no complaints about any such injury before going to or whilst in Uruguay.

 

Importantly, the Court held that it would be wholly unreasonable to impute to the employer knowledge of a vulnerability or condition of which the plaintiff himself was unaware, where the defendant had not been appraised of the plaintiff’s psychological history and the existence of the vulnerability and likelihood of psychological harm was not ascertained through medical examination and enquiries. The court found that there was no basis upon which the employer could not assume the plaintiff could withstand the “corporate culture” of the company.

 

4.     Maher v Jabil Global Services Ltd [2005]                         [STRESS]

Clarke J in the High Court further refined the test:-

 

(i)     Has the plaintiff suffered an injury to his or her health as opposed to what might be described as ordinary occupational stress;

 

(ii)    If so, is that injury attributable to the workplace; and

 

(iii)   If so, was the harm suffered to the particular employee concerned reasonably foreseeable in all the circumstances.

 

If yes, the court must address the fundamental question of whether the defendant fell below the standard of a reasonable and prudent employer in addressing the needs of the particular employee.

 

The plaintiff in this case claimed that the pressure under which he was placed by management to achieve targets he perceived as unrealistic gave rise to his stress which occurred in circumstances where his employers knew or ought to have known that such harm was a likely consequence. He also felt humiliated when he later had a period of underwork.

 

The court held that there was no evidence upon which it was reasonable to infer that the employer should have known that the work was too demanding and there did not appear to be any real evidence that the demands made of the plaintiff were unreasonable when compared to colleagues in a similar position. There were no signs that colleagues doing the job had suffered harmful levels of stress or that there were abnormal levels of sickness or absenteeism in the same job or same department. The court held that the employer did not have peculiar knowledge as to the vulnerability of the employee.

 

5.     Quigley v Complex Tooling and Moulding [2008]                           [BULLYING]

The plaintiff in this case claimed to have been subjected to humiliation by the Managing Director, following his refusal to take a voluntary redundancy package. The plaintiff gave evidence of the Plant Manager’s behaviour which included persistent watching, constant criticism, failure to respond or communicate and inconsistency. His evidence was supported by several other employees. The plaintiff was awarded €75,773 in the High Court.

 

This was overturned in the Supreme Court. The employer appealed on two grounds: firstly, that the evidence did not bear out the plaintiff’s complaints of bullying; and secondly that there was not sufficient evidence of a causal link between the bullying accepted by the Court and the depression the Plaintiff suffered. The court found that the evidence adduced supported a finding of bullying. However, having examined the medical evidence, the Supreme Court found that the plaintiff had not considered himself to have been affected mentally until after his dismissal. The doctor gave no evidence linking the depression to the harassment or workplace bullying. The medical evidence was held only to be consistent with depression caused by dismissal and not linked to the harassment.

 

6.     Berber v Dunnes Stores Ltd [2009]                                              [BULLYING]

Mr Berber claimed that he had been treated unfairly and demoted, which amounted to a breach of the implied terms of his employment contract. He claimed that the employer damaged the employment relationship of confidence and trust. He engaged in several unsuccessful meetings with upper level management but the issue quickly became contentious and he was subsequently terminated.

 

The High Court held that there was a breakdown in the relationship caused by the employer, and that it was appropriate for the plaintiff to resign and claim constructive dismissal. Referring to the Maher test, the court held that the standard of care required by the employer is what a reasonable and prudent employer would have done in the circumstance.

 

However, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court decision, stated that an objective test is to be applied to the employer’s conduct in such case. On occasions where the Plaintiff had refused to follow management instructions, he was not dismissed but was rather suspended without pay after a number of meetings encouraging the Plaintiff to reconsider his stance. The Court held that objectively, the employee’s conduct was unreasonable. The employer allowed the employee come back to work as soon as he was medically fit to do so, and assured him that they would overlook previous incidents. He was certified fit to return to work and the employer was entitled to rely on this. An incident in which the plaintiff was mistakenly referred to as a ‘new trainee’ was promptly amended and reasonable attempts had been made to accommodate the plaintiff’s concerns as to his new training plan. Mr Berber refused to interact with his employer, except through his solicitor. This was damaging to the relationship and unreasonable in the circumstances. The breach of contract found by the High Court was overturned.

 

Addtionally, Finnegan J approved of the practical propositions set out in McGrath by Laffoy J. With regard to causation, the Supreme Court was satisfied that the injuries were caused by workplace stress and that injuries were foreseeable unless reasonable care was taken. The Court cited Justice Hale in Hatton: ‘in every case it is necessary to consider what the employer not only could but should have done’. In considering whether the employer had taken reasonable care, the court stated that the employer had acted reasonably. The injury sustained was not foreseeable, and thus the plaintiff’s claim failed. This seemed to suggest that even if stress was foreseeable, if the employer acted reasonably then injury was not so foreseeable.

 

7.     Dickens v O2 Plc [2009]                                                             [STRESS]

The Plaintiff in this case had been a conscientious employee and had worked for the employer for many years. She was required to carry out a quarterly audit, which she found very stressful. She took a short holiday but felt no better and informed her manager that she could not cope and wished to transfer to a less stressful job. There were no vacancies at the time and she was informed that they would review the issue in three months time. She then requested a six month sabbatical but was instead advised to use the employer’s counselling helpline. Following this, she had an appraisal and raised her concerns again. She was referred to Occupational Health, however before she was seen she had suffered a breakdown. She never returned to work.

 

The Court of Appeal found that the injury was reasonably foreseeable from the time at which she requested a sabbatical. She made it clear to her employer the seriousness of her symptoms and the employer should have been alerted to the risks. Simply referring the employee to the helpline was not sufficient and she should have been referred to Occupational Health when she first raised her concerns. It appears that a more interventionist approach is required in this regard. The employer’s failure to address her problem was a material contribution to her breakdown and thus they were held liable.

 

8.     Frank Shortt v Royal Liver Assurance Limited [2009]                    [STRESS]

The Plaintiff claimed that he suffered injury as a result of an unlawful disciplinary process. Laffoy J stated that a disciplinary action will almost always be accompanied by some form of stress but that they are events encountered in the normal course of management. Laffoy J held that an employer is entitled to assume that an employee is able to withstand such stress unless there is evidence to the contrary. Therefore, the injuries sustained by the Plaintiff were not foreseeable.

 

9.     Sweeney v The Board of Management of Ballinteer Community School [2011] [BULLYING]

The plaintiff complained that the principal had subjected her to a deliberate and continuous campaign of bullying and harassment during that period and that she had suffered mental injury, in the form of clinical depression as a result. She was urgently summoned to an inspection by the Department of Education, subject to unwarranted requests to attend the office and her office was forced open during the summer vacation, with her belongings and confidential files moved.

 

She had a history over the previous three years of absence from work due to work related stress which were found to be ‘uncharacteristic’. On all the evidence, the plaintiff had been subjected to deliberate and continuous bullying and harassment by the principal as a direct consequence of which she had suffered mental injury in the form of clinical depression, a result which had been reasonably foreseeable. The defendant had been negligent in causing or permitting the plaintiff to be harried, watched and beset in the course of her employment.

 

10.  Kelly v Bon Secours [2012] – corporate bullying                                       [BULLYING]

The Plaintiff issued proceedings for personal injury sustained to her back by carrying files and further a claim for alleged harassment, bullying and abuse. She claimed that she was bullied by management as a whole and stated that she had brought numerous grievances to the attention of management.

 

The Plaintiff believed that her difficulties began following an accident at work in August 2004 in which she injured her back carrying files. Her manager refused to sign an accident report form and did not report the accident. She subsequently applied for a permanent full time position which was supposed to be open to internal candidates only. However, an external candidate was hired, contrary to agreed procedures between management and unions. There appeared to be no justification other than what he accepted as management’s view of the Plaintiff as trouble and to avoid giving her a permanent position. The Court held that this constituted corporate bullying and resulted in stress to her.

 

The Plaintiff was suspended some months later when she refused to sign a statement of a complaint taken from her because she did not agree that it was accurate. Cross J held that the suspension was a breach of contract, bullying and harassment and discriminatory treatment from which the Plaintiff suffered an injury and an actionable wrong.

 

Cross J came to the conclusion that the Defendant’s conduct was to be strongly criticised on a number of matters ie the behaviour of the Plaintiff’s manager towards the Plaintiff immediately after the accident, the alteration of normal work practices to open the permanent position to “outside candidates” to the detriment of the Plaintiff, the suspension and manhandling the Plaintiff out of the hospital after the refusal to sign the statement the interference with the mediation procedures of Polaris, by the Defendant. The Court did note that the Plaintiff believed that virtually every step taken by the Defendants was an attempt to bully, harass and intimidate her and did not find that it was the case.

 

The Court was of the view that the Plaintiff’s view is coloured by her personality and the fact that she was clearly a person subject to stress but the Defendants were or are ought to have been aware of this fact from a very early stage as they knew her history with her previous employment and they knew also of her husband’s career. Therefore, the Defendants were liable for bullying and harassment of the Plaintiff.

 

11.  Ruffley v Board of Management St. Anne’s School [2014]                         [BULLYING]

The Plaintiff in this case claimed damages for bullying and harassment which she suffered as a result of an incident in work. The Plaintiff was disciplined for an incident at work where a child was locked into the ‘sensory room’ with her, a practice which was common among the Special Needs Assistants. The Plaintiff was subjected to an extreme disciplinary process and unfair treatment which the court held ‘utterly denied her the benefit of her constitutional right to natural justice and fair procedures’. She successfully demonstrated that the inappropriate behaviour of the Defendants was not merely an isolated incident but was persistent over a period of in excess of one year. The court held that this persistent, inappropriate behaviour of the Defendants wholly undermined the Plaintiff’s dignity at work.  The Plaintiff did her utmost to pursue her grievance through internal procedures and  the Defendants failed to consider the merits of her case or conduct any investigation into her contention that locking the door was common practice. Further, the Court was satisfied that the Plaintiff has suffered a definite and identifiable psychiatric injury (as per Quigley) as a result of the treatment she received at work by evidence of her GP and a psychiatrist.

 

12.  Glynn v The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Attorney General [2014]

[STRESS/BULLYING/HARASSMENT]

 

Ms Glynn claimed for damages relating to events which occurred in May 2005 in which she was required to complete monthly accounts for Gort Garda Station. She claimed that suffered significant stress over four days as a result of being harassed by her Superintendent to complete the job quickly.

 

The Plaintiff described events in 1996 that caused her significant stress. She stated that she was working in a portacabin with a colleague with whom she did not get on. She told the Court that she felt very stressed about these circumstances and was absent on sick leave for a six month period. She returned to work on a three day week. In the course of her absence, she met with the Superintendent to discuss her issues and gave a negative account of such meeting. She also stated that she received three calls from the Superintendent and felt that this was harassment. Subsequently, her GP rang the Superintendent to ask him to stop calling her.

 

Ms Glynn was subsequently moved to the sergeant’s office after a period of maternity leave and her workplace difficulties ceased.  She applied for a promotion and was successful in 2004, but her colleague continued to perform the finance duties and she was informed that she could not take up the position until he left. The Plaintiff acknowledged that she suffered no difficulties between 1998 and 2005.

 

In May 2005 she was asked to complete monthly accounts. She felt that this unexpected request was unreasonable and complained that it required her to move to her previous office as her current desk was not a secure location. In the course of preparing the accounts, she raised a process issue regarding expenses for the Superintendent, who informed her that she was making a ‘big deal’ out of it. She went on sick leave from this time and returned in July 2006, and has had no issues since.

 

Kearns P noted that the Plaintiff had not raised any complaint of bullying about her colleague or any complaint regarding the incidents in 1996. The Court noted that up until the hearing, the Plaintiff had not revealed any prior psychological history or that she had suffered from depression in the past. On cross-examination, she conceded that she had past difficulties with depression and was prescribed medication for same.

 

Kearns P made an important distinction between bullying, workplace stress and occupational stress. He stated that occupational stress is not actionable given that occupational stress is something which every employed person may experience at some stage and can occur for reasons unrelated to and distinct from bullying. Workplace stress may be actionable if certain legal criteria are met but it lacks the degree of deliberateness which is the hallmark of bullying. It can be the result of behaviour which falls short of bullying. It can be the result of negligence where excessive demands are made of an employee or where complaints about shortcomings in the workplace go unheeded.

 

Bullying is judged by reference to an objective test, whether the behaviour complained of imports that degree of calibrated inappropriateness and repetition which differentiates bullying from workplace stress or occupational stress. Kearns P noted the legal definition and placed emphasis on the fact that a once off incident is not considered bullying. He also restated the principals set out in Hatton.

 

The Plaintiff’s claim was distilled down to two issues: her sense of injustice that as a civilian employee, she was not being paid the same rate for the same work; and that she found her working conditions unsatisfactory. Kearns J found that the facts fell short of substantiating an allegation of bullying by her colleague. The Court was critical of the Plaintiff’s failure to disclose her prior history of depression. The Court also noted that her complaints were only revived when she was asked to do something she did not wish to do. Additionally, the events in May 2005 were more identifiable with a one off incident which does not meet the definition of bullying. The Court noticed that there was no evidence by any other member of the Garda Station to suggest a culture of bullying or harassment and there was no witness to corroborate the Plaintiff’s complaint. Kearns P found that the Plaintiff had not made out a case of workplace stress causing or contributing to foreseeable injury or damage. The Plaintiff had failed to disclose her prior history and she failed to demonstrate that her stress was attributable to the matter complained off. The Court found that the stress was occupational stress only and the claim was dismissed.

 

 

 

 


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