Thursday 3 December 2009

Protection from Harassment Act

[Thanks to Alfred Weiss of Zenith Chambers for providing this case summary]

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Veakins v Keir Islington Ltd, which is authority for the proposition that ...

In a claim for harassment under the Harassment Act 1997, when deciding whether the conduct complained of constitutes harassment within section 1, the primary focus is on whether the conduct is oppressive and unacceptable, albeit the court must keep in mind that it must be of an order which would sustain criminal liability (per Lord Nicholls in Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust [2006] UKHL 34).

Although there is nothing in the language of the Act which excludes workplace harassment, Lord Maurice Kay giving the leading speech did not expect that many workplace cases will give rise to liability under the Harassment Act. The Employment Tribunal will more fittingly provide the remedy for the great majority of cases of high-handed and discriminatory conduct.

Veakins, a trainee electrician, gave unchallenged evidence that she was a usually robust woman who had been victimised and demoralised by her supervisor and became clinically depressed. Lord Maurice Kay held that in this unusually one-sided case the proven conduct crossed the line into conduct which is oppressive and unreasonable which he considered would, in the event of a prosecution, be sufficient to establish criminal liability.

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