Bullying and Harassment

Bullying in the Workplace Grievance Letter Example

www.formalgrievance.com is a dedicated website to aid employees who are being subjected to either bullying in the workplace, bullying at work, harassment in the workplace, workplace harassment or bullying and harassment. A letter of grievance is also available for those employee’s who are considering writing a letter of grievance to their employer to enter the grievance procedure.

What is Bullying and how is it different to Harassment?

Where to start! The very first thing to do is to take the word “bullying” and replace it with the word “harassment”. From now on, forget that the word “bullying” exists. Replace it with the word “harassment” or “unwanted conduct”. In the eyes of the law, only “harassment” is actionable for compensation on protected grounds, viz: disability, sex, race etc,. For an Employment Tribunal claim to be successful, you need to establish that you have been “harassed”. The Equality Act 2010 uses the word “harassment” under s.26, so let’s keep to the legal wording. However, the Tribunal also recognises the words “unwanted conduct” too.

The Equality Act 2010 – Definition of Harassment at Work

The Equality Act 2010 defines “harassment as: “unwanted conduct” which must have the “purpose or effect” of:

1. “Violating the victim recipients dignity” or:-

2. “Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim recipient”.

If you believe you have been harassed, then make sure that you state so in your letter of grievance to your employer. Equally as important, you MUST state in your letter of grievance how your harasser’s “unwanted conduct” made you “feel”.  This is the most important thing you can do as ‘injury to feelings’ on the Vento Scale can payout upto £30,000 in the Employment Tribunal.

In HM Prison Service v Salmon, the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld an award of £20,000 for injury to feelings, including £5,000 aggravated damages, and a separate, undiscounted award of £15,000 for psychiatric injury, made by an employment tribunal that had partially upheld a former prison officer’s complaint of unlawful sex discrimination

Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010, is for harassment under a ‘protected characteristic‘, viz: race, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation etc,.

The incidents of harassment do not need to be connected, and can be purported by either workplace colleagues, customers, or third parties {the harassment does not have to be by the same person}. The key here, is to be able to [prove] to a Tribunal that you informed your employer that you felt the ‘unwanted conduct’ amounted to ‘harassment’. Therefore, it is essential that you email your letter of grievance to your employer’s HR department to invoke the grievance procedure. This way, you can draw inference at a later date, where your employer fails to take reasonable and practicable steps to prevent further disruption and harassment, for which your employer may be vicariously liable pursuant to s.109(1)(2)(3)(4)(a)(b) of the EqA 2010 (Equality Act 2010).

Employment Tribunal – Balance of Probabilities

In truth, it is rare that an employee will have “evidence” of bullying at work, to which s/he has been subjected. Harassment in the workplace is usually subtle, the harasser careful to make sure there are no witnesses to workplace bullying. Fortunately, Employment Tribunals recognise this, and take it into account.However, you still have to establish a “balance of probabilities” case. It is my own experience that workplace harassment occurs due to mismanagement, poor management, or weak management. Often, senior management have little resolve to confront the harasser, or more likely than not, are the harasser themselves.

I used my mobile phone to tape record my manager sexually harassing me at work. I also asked my line manager why she acted in the manner she did towards me, and caught every word she said on my mobile telephone. Consequentially, I had hard eveidence of the on-going harassment. I also got another employee to video my line manger sexually harassing me on his mobile telephone at a works do. Believe me, when it comes to harassment, a picture paints a thousand words! The upshot of the video and audio evidence was that I was able to support my letter of grievance with hard evidence. However, using your mobile is not always possible, and in these situations I suggest you visit the Spy Shop on-line and purchase one of those pens where you click the top of the pen, and it records for up to 4 hours. This is a great device for 1 to 1 meetings where your line manager is no longer giving you the support you need. It is also great for meetings with Human Resources in grievance and disciplinary hearings.

Unless your Company has a policy or procedure which forbids this practice, then it is fair play. I have yet to come across an employer’s policy which mentions recording meetings at all.

Place the Onus on your Employer

Should you chose to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim due to workplace harassment or discrimination in the workplace, the onus is on the employee to establish facts, that “on the balance of probabilities” what you have alleged in your ET1 [employment tribunal claim] has actually occurred. This is different to let’s say a criminal trial, whereas “beyond a reasonable doubt” has to be established.

The Employment Tribunal recognises that the employer will unlikely “concede” any liability of the alleged “torts” (wrongs). The employer will attempt to establish that the claimant’s claim does not have any “merit”. The employer will allege that your ET1 is “misconceived” throwing out as much as it can. Remember, the onus is on the employee to “shift the burden of proof “on to the employer pursuant to s.136 of the Equality Act 2010.

Grievance Letter Examples

Below are two examples of a hypothetical incident of ‘sexual harassment in the workplace’. Another more in depth letter of grievance example germane to work related stress, harassment and disability discrimination is available at www.formalgrievance.com.

The first grievance example is a bad example of what to state within your letter of grievance, as it does not establish how you (the victim recipient) felt:-

“Mr Shart grabbed his crotch and told me he wanted to give me a large portion later. I was somewhat taken back, as my workplace colleagues just stood there laughing at me.”

Good grievance letter example:

“I found Shart’s conduct to be unwanted.I felt his actions were with deliberate intent, the purpose and effect to embarrass me, which is how he made me feel. I found Shart’s statement that he wanted to give me a large portion to be offensive, and most undignified. The fact that my workplace colleagues just stood there laughing at me humiliated me. Mr Shart’s conduct was wholly inappropriate. I am not sure what made him believe that his behaviour was acceptable to me. However, I felt by my colleagues laughing at me, they condoned Shart’s unwanted conduct”

In the good example above, the wording encompasses the legal definition of “harassment”. You have informed your employer that (i) you found Shart’s conduct unwanted (ii) you felt embarrassed (iii) you found Shart’s conduct to be offensive and undignified (iv) you have established the fact that you felt humiliated (v) that in no way did you encourage Shart to behave in the manner he did; Shart acted of his own volition, and of his own accord (vi) you felt your colleagues condoned Shart’s unwanted conduct by their failure to stop him.

In the good example of harassment in the workplace, you have made it difficult for your employer to point the finger of blame at you, as to do so may amount to the employer subjecting you to a “detriment” for having exercised a statutory right in lodging a letter of grievance.

Workplace Banter

However, from my own experiences, your employer will undoubtedly seek to place some portion of the blame on to you, to both limit its liability, and discredit you. It will contend that you were horsing around, and that Shart’s conduct was merely ‘harmless banter’, viz: ‘colloquial’. They may even insinuate that you in someway encouraged Shart’s behaviour, and that Shart was only reacting to you ‘egging him on’ in front of your workplace colleagues. Notwithstanding, unless you are able to ‘establish facts’ from which the Employment Tribunal could conclude that harassment has taken place, your claim is worthless. This is why it is so very important that you get your ducks in a row before you lodge your letter of grievance. (see: grievance letter template aid)

Webmaster’s thoughts:

1. When it comes to work harassment, the law is quite clear. It is what the “victim recipient” finds to be offensive, undignified, embarrassing, degrading, hostile or intimidating. It is NOT for your employer to decide how YOU [FELT]. Each person knows what they feel is “harmless banter” and also, the behaviour which is not acceptable to them.

2. You need a plan of action. Gather all the evidence and facts BEFORE you lodge your grievance letter. Once the grievance procedure is invoked, your employer will appoint an investigating officer who will endeavour to limit the organisations liability. Remember, the appointed investigator is there to protect the organisation – not you! You will have no control over the appointed investigator, or the questions s/he will ask your workplace colleagues, or how that person goes about investigating what you have alleged. Keep in mind the investigator is also an employee, and will not jeopardise their own career by finding any”evidence” of harassment, which may have occurred.

3. So, before your invoke the grievance procedure, obtain ‘witness statements‘ from your colleagues where possible. You want short statements, giving the date, the time, the place, what the harasser stated, and who else was present. Get the person to sign and date their witness statement, and provide their name and address.

4. From my own experiences, your colleagues will put as much distance between you and them once the grievance investigation gets underway. They will not want to become embroiled in your grievance, or risk losing their own job  – forewarned is forearmed!

Legal Definition of Harassment 

The legal definition of harassment under S.26 of the Equality Act 2010 is the following:

“Unwanted conduct” which must relate to one of the following “protected characteristics”:

i. sex

ii. sex orientation

iii. race

iv. disability

v. age

vi. gender

vii. marriage and civil partnership,

viii. gender reassignment

ix. religion.

The “unwanted conduct” must have the “purpose or effect” of:

1. violating the victim recipients dignity, or

2. creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim recipient.

In truth, it is not hard to establish that the “harassment” (unwanted conduct) has “violated” your “dignity”. In nearly every case of “harassment” it will be viewed by the victim as having been, or had the “effect of” either being “degrading, humiliating, offensive or hostile”. The key is that you MUST tie the harassment in to one of the aforementioned “protected characteristics”.

For what it is worth, pursuant to s.110(a)(b)(c)(2) of the Equality Act 2010, the harasser can be held personally liable for their own conduct in harssing you. Within your letter of grievance, I would inform your employer that they need to warn your harasser in writing to desist harassing you further; otherwise the Company would leave you no choice but to name your harasser as an additional named respondent in any Employment Tribunal proceedings. This usually puts the fear of God into the employer and the harasser, as the last thing the employer wants is to be held vicariously liable for the harassment pursuant to s.109(1)(2)(3)(4)(a)(b) of the Equality Act 2010.

Moreover, if the employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent others employees’ from harassing you (google workplace mobbing) then the employer could be liable for inducing, causing, and aiding contraventions pursuant to s.111 of the Equality Act 2010. If you need a custom letter of grievance drafting to your employer, then contact me. There is nothing like a bit of law and a few case precedents quoted within your letter of grievance to bring your harasser to their senses!

If you believe that you have been “harassed” due to either your sex, sexual orientation or sexual nature, then click here:

If you believe that you have been “harassed” due to having a disability, then click here: You may be surprised as to what legally constitutes having a “disability”. I strongly suggest you read this section, as you may have a disability, which you were unaware is a legally recognised as a disability. The following are legally recognised disabilities, which employment tribunals recognise. However, the list is not exhaustive!

www.formalgrievance.com – how to write a letter of grievance to your employer to enter the grievance procedure, due to workplace stress, work harassment or discrimination in the workplace. www.formalgrievance.com contains a free letter of grievance, and grievance letter templates, examples and samples of grievance letters.