Latest news and blog » Employment Law - Harassment in the workplace 2016-11-13
Section 15 (2) of the Act specifically states:- “Anything done by a person as agent for another person, with the authority (whether express or implied and whether precedent or subsequent) of that other person shall, in any proceedings brought under this Act, be treated for the purpose of this Act as done also by that person.”
In the case of Sweeney v Board of Management Ballinter Community School ( IEHC 131), the Plaintiff was a member of the teaching staff of a large community college and claimed she had been bullied and harassed by the principal of that college, resulting in a psychiatric injury. It was held that even if the Board of Management of the school did not know or could not reasonably have known that the Plaintiff was being bullied and harassed by their employee in the course of her work, it was still vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of the principal of the college once those acts were committed by him within the scope of his employment. The court held that the college, as employer, were obliged to take reasonable care to prevent her suffering mental injury in the workplace as a result of being harassed or bullied by other employees if they knew or ought to have known that such was occurring.
Section 15(3) of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 is of some assistance to employers in that it provides that it shall be a defence for an employer in respect of an alleged act done by an employee, for the employer to prove that he/she took such steps, as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee:-
from doing that act, or from doing in the course of his/her employment, acts of that description’.
A defence for employers regarding harrassment is to ensure that a proper equality policy is in place, one that is published and in which employees are properly trained.
Accordingly, the Employment Equality Acts protect employees from harrassment in the workplace. Defences for employers under the Act can be met by ensuring a policy is in place in accordance with the law.