Employers Negligence – Bullying
A recent Court of Appeal decision in McCarthy v ISS Ireland & HSE (2018) did not uphold a finding of bullying but did find the employer negligent for failing to act when certain behaviour was reported by a Supervisor. The employer should have acted to prevent a recurrence of the behaviour and was found guilty of negligence for not having policies and procedures in place and failing to provide the Plaintiff with a safe place of work.
The Plaintiff was a Supervisor and alleged that over a 2 year period, she was subjected to 5 separate incidents of aggressive and abusive behaviour towards her by staff she supervised which caused her stress, pain and suffering. These were reported to management but no action was taken.
In the High Court, the case was dismissed. However, on appeal to the Court of Appeal, the claim in negligence succeeded. Although the vicarious liability claim was not upheld, the Court held the employer failed to provide a safe place of work (which is a statutory and common law duty) and was also negligent in not having a policy in place.
It is crucial that employers have in place bullying and harassment policies that all staff are aware of. If an employee reports behaviour, it should be investigated fully as per company policy. Aggressive or inappropriate behaviour reported by an employee should never be ignored or swept under the carpet.
For employees, it is important to keep a diary of the alleged bullying and ensure it is reported to management as per company policy (with a record kept of the reporting and replies). This policy will likely be contained in the Handbook or Contract. If you are not satisfied with the manner in which it is being dealt with, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
If you have any queries in relation to this or any other aspect of employment law or litigation, please contact Niall MacCarthy or Brendan Dillon on (01) 2960666.