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  • A High Court judge has awarded €75,000 damages to a teacher against the board of management of Ballinteer Community School arising from “deliberate and conscious” bullying and harassment of her by the school principal who at one stage hired a private investigator to follow her. See Irish Times 24th March 2011 – .

    The evidence established, on the balance of probabilities, Ms Sweeney suffered a psychiatric illness, in the form of clinical depression, between February 2008 and June 2010, arising from the continuous bullying of her by Dr Corcoran from March 28th 2007. This mental injury resulting from the bullying was reasonably foreseeable by both Dr Corcoran and the board of management and there was a breach of the employer’s direct duty of care to Ms Sweeney.

    Tt is essential that employers have adequate policies and procedures in place to properly deal with allegations of bullying. When such an allegation is made it is in the interest of all parties involved to have the matter dealt with as efficiently as possible. A bullying prevention policy is a significant means of achieving this objective as it provides the structure under which the allegation can be managed.

     The relevant Republic of Ireland Law and Procedures.

     It is a defence for an employer under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 to prove that it took such steps as are “reasonably practicable” to prevent the person harassing the victim.  Employers who do not have in place an appropriate, clear, written bullying and harassment policy and who do not properly implement that policy in all the circumstances are less likely to be in a position to mount a successful defence to legal proceedings.

     A failure by the employer to investigate the matter might arguably constitute negligence on the part of the employer who is ultimately vicariously liable for the acts of all its employees which will include those of the alleged harasser.   A failure by the employer to deal with the matter could also lead to further (and more serious) bullying and harassment by the co-worker if steps are not taken by the employer to investigate the matter. 

     Codes of Practice

    There are three relevant Codes of Practice, as there are three separate pieces of legislation, relating to this aspect of the employment situation. The legislation is :

    • Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005
    • Industrial Relations Act, 1990
    • Employment Equality Act, 1998

    The Codes of Practice are designed to provide guidelines on arrangements, procedures and guidance generally on tackling workplace bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.

    Code of Practice on the prevention of Workplace Bullying made under the Safety, Health and Welfare at WorkAct, 2005 (PDF, 1MB)
    This Code is under the remit of the Health and Safety Authority, and outlines the procedures which should be in place in organizations, so that the hazard of workplace bullying can be effectively and consistently addressed. It also provides guidance for employers, employees and trade unions on how to prevent a bullying culture from developing and identifies those responsible for its management and control.

    Code of Practice detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace made under the Industrial Relations Act, 1990

    This Code is under the remit of the Labour Relations Commission. Download the full text of the Code.

    Code of Practice on Guidance, Prevention and Procedures for dealing with Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work made under the Employment Equality Act, 1998

    This Code is under the remit of the Equality Authority. Download the full text of the Code.

    Bullying Claims are generally issued in the form of Personal Injury Actions. For further information on such Claims go to the “compensation Guide” on the Morgan McManus Solicitors website at .