Harassment in the workplace: what employers need to do about it
Focus should be on preventing such behaviour from happening.
As an employer, how far are you responsible for what your employees say and do to each other?
The answer is: more than you might think, certainly if the content and manner of their behaviour amounts to harassment.
Harassment may be unlawful even if the perpetrator/s did not intend their behaviour to cause offence. If behaviour amounts to harassment, then simply saying “I was only joking” or “It was only a bit of banter” will not be enough to provide a legal defence to a claim.
You need to protect your employees, your company and yourself by taking reasonably practicable steps to stop harassment in its tracks.
Unless you do so, you will be held responsible under anti-discrimination law for any unlawful harassment that your employees commit in the in the workplace. Your focus should be on preventing such behaviour from happening. Simply telling the perpetrators to ‘cut it out’ after the fact is not enough.
Jacqui McKee, Director of Advice and Compliance at the Equality Commission NI, looks at harassment in the workplace and the responsibility on employers to address it.