A recent Court of Appeal case has ruled that employers may be held responsible for acts of harassment committed by their employees, Kathy Halliday, a partner at law firm Cobbetts, has warned.
The case - Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas NHS Trust - considered whether an employer could be held responsible under the Protection from Harassment Act for alleged bullying, intimidation and harassment carried out by one employee against another.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeal held that Section 3 of the Act, which came into force to primarily deal with stalkers, also applies to employment situations. Under the Act, the harassment is described as being a course of conduct that causes alarm or distress.
Ms Halliday said: "This is an important development and could mark the beginning of a new remedy for employees who claim to have been bullied at work, as employers may now have to pay compensation for any anxiety suffered as well as for any financial loss resulting from the alleged harassment.
"Until this Court of Appeal decision, it was thought that employees could only be compensated for acts of harassment if they could prove some form of unlawful discrimination or, alternatively, if they resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.
"The Majrowski decision means that employees can now seek compensation without having to resign and without having to prove that the harassment amounted to race or sex discrimination, for example."