48

I've been looking at the UK Equality Act 2010 act and it says harassment is unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of violating your dignity. If people literally come up to you and say, "We don't like you and you should quit," then this is classed as harassment, right?

I mean ostracism is like the opposite of this and its classed as harassment.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Oct 3 '18 at 5:52
  • Who are “people”? Your manager? The company owner? HR? Some random co-worker trying to bully you? Also, you are asking a legal question which would be off-topic here. You should ask what’s the best way to handle this instead. – gnasher729 Oct 4 '18 at 6:37
46

I'm Canadian, we have similar laws but not identical.

This is something that needs to be addressed by your company HR department. That behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be condoned.

That being said, I'd also start looking for another job. You've probably done nothing wrong to warrant this behavior by others, so this may seem unfair. However, a company that has employees that think they can get away with this behaviour, is a company with some deeper issues that need to be fixed at a higher level.

  • 75
    "You've probably done nothing wrong to warrant this behavior by others..." This is rampant speculation. On the contrary, the OP seems to indicate that multiple people feel this way, which is enough evidence to at least consider the possibility. That doesn't justify their behavior, but we also shouldn't readily assume there's no fault on the OP's part, either. In particular, if they go to HR, anything that might be causing it could come to light, leaving all sides in hot water. – jpmc26 Oct 1 '18 at 17:02
  • 11
    @jpmc26 I get it, absolute speculation. The way I phrased it was an attempt to appease OPs, most likely, bias/preconception. Probably not the best wording I agree. I'll leave it. The gist of the post is that this is an HR issue. – Victor Procure Oct 1 '18 at 17:32
  • 2
    @jpmc26 Speculation aside (which you are correct about), "you should quit" is never an acceptable approach to conflict. If it comes from an official source, that's effectively strongarming someone so they do not need to pay them severance; if it comes from an unofficial source, it's at the very least aggressive bullying. Also, OP could've avoided the speculation without really changing the answer: "This may seem unfair if you didn't actually do anything to warrant this behavior, but..." – Flater Oct 2 '18 at 7:17
  • @Flater Repeating myself: "That doesn't justify their behavior..." Of course this answer could've been worded differently; the whole point of comments is to point out problems so they can be fixed. – jpmc26 Oct 2 '18 at 7:18
  • This sort of thing has happened to me many times. But usually they don't tell me they don't like me; they just make me leave. It could be I'm doing something specifically wrong, but they never ever tell me what that is. Hannah Green, in I Never Promised You A Rose Garden called that the surprise of the inevitable. – Jennifer Oct 2 '18 at 17:21
23

It is harassment.

Don't take this lightly, you don't want it to escalate behind your back.

It's also a threat, sometimes the sort of people who would say something like this can get physical, already the implication is there is more than one and this is not the end of it, it's not a friendly 'heads up'. I got a lot of this in blue collar jobs and bouncing, my policy was always to call their bluff.

But I've had a lot of stitches in my time.

  • 13
    Someone saying "We don't like you." is a threat? – Minix Oct 1 '18 at 17:26
  • 3
    @AaronHall 'whats your problem clown?' or similar with varying degrees of politeness depending on the circumstances. But could also be a finger gesture, or in the case of fellow bouncers at some point you have to prove you can physically take care of yourself, so you might as well just show them and cut the chitchat altogether.. – Kilisi Oct 1 '18 at 19:07
  • 1
    WHAT DO You mean by stitches like you got beat up? – bakalolo Oct 2 '18 at 3:09
  • 5
    @Minix "We don't like you. You should quit." (the full quote) could be seen to have an implied threat (depending on context, tone of voice etc. can't tell from the plain text) as it could infer that hostile behavior towards the recipient may continue or escalate if they don't quit. – motosubatsu Oct 2 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    @AaronHall no he didn't, he tripped and fell, but I sustained a few injuries from the bouncers behind him. All normal enough in that line of work back in those days. – Kilisi Oct 2 '18 at 19:20
16

This is completely unacceptable in many ways, including legally.

While only a court can definitively pronounce on what is harassment, this is virtually certain to fall within that category.

You should immediately take this up with the company. Start with your boss, but if he does nothing (or he is one of the people involved) go to HR. Tell them what has happened, tell them you believe it is both harassement and workplace bullying. Tell them you want to file a formal complaint. If you are in a union or professional association then also get their advice (preferably before going to HR). If race, gender, sexuality or religion are involved then tell HR that as well. The combination of those will virtually force them to take action. The company has a legal responsibility to prevent this kind of thing. If they are the kind of company that won't do that, despite legal responsibilities, you are definitely better off elsewhere.

You should expect that disciplinary action is taken against the people involved, and that HR tells you that they have done something and that it will not happen again. If there is any repetition, or any attempt to punish you for the report, then tell HR immediately.

If HR refuses to take effective action you have the option of getting a lawyer and seeing if there is a case for suing them. This is potentially expensive, but if you are in a union then the union will often bear the legal costs for you. You might find that the threat makes them clean up their act. But if it gets to that point you are wise to have the option of another job to go to. If you do not want to take legal action then quitting is the only option.

NOTE: The entire above answer is written on the assumption that you have done nothing to provoke this reaction. If you have yourself assaulted, harassed or bullied you co-workers, or made comments or espoused views that could be considered hateful or discriminatory, then any escalation of this is probably going to result in disciplinary action for yourself.

  • This answer would be greatly improved by citing related laws and regulations and explaining how this is illegal based off of the cited law or regulation. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 1 '18 at 13:51
  • 1
    Don't have statutes to hand, but I had enough training as a manager to know it's the case. – DJClayworth Oct 1 '18 at 13:53
  • 5
    If you have a union always talk to them before a lawyer, and in serious cases like this probably before HR. – DJClayworth Oct 1 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    @DJClayworth: Unless it's the union members doing the harassing... – jamesqf Oct 1 '18 at 16:54
  • 2
    @jamesqf Especially if its the union members doing the harassing, as long as they aren't your specific rep (and even then, you can find another rep to talk to). – GreySage Oct 1 '18 at 18:41
6

This is 100% Harassment and any judge will side with you on this.

Contact a lawyer to see if something can be done about it as they're breaking the Equality act as you've mentioned and if the company does nothing about this to protect you then you could be suitable for a claim especially if you mention that you no longer feel comfortable to work in such an environment and workplace (which is not lies) and that your dignity has been knocked.

If HR side with the "bullies" you could be in for a good claim if you fight a good case

  • 4
    Hi Twyxz, HR side with the bullies so that's out, was thinking of having my union rep there to see what would happen. The place is literally lawless. Its full of little people with big ego's. I seriously think they don't know that there are employment laws made by the government for the workplace. I'm not going to just quit but will accept a severance package if it comes to it. – Kenny Barber Oct 1 '18 at 13:40
  • 10
    @KennyBarber If you have been to HR already then please edit information about what happened into the question. – DJClayworth Oct 1 '18 at 13:48
6

Unless the harrassment is directly linked to your race, gender or religeon then the Equalities Act is unlikely to be of any help to you.

That said, you still have a case, because you're right; this kind of behaviour, pushing people out of a job, will definitely get companies in trouble.

If you end up leaving the job because of the reasons you stated, then you have a strong case to sue them for Constructive Dismissal. You will obviously need to have evidence to support your claim, but given suitable evidence, and assuming your side of the story is accurate, then it should be a clear cut case.

My advice:

  • Start collecting evidence now, if you haven't already. Get everything you can in writing. Save any relevant emails (I suggest printing them).
  • Talk to people who can help. Visit your local Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB). Get legal advice (please note that nothing I've said here is legal advice!). If you have a union, talk to them too.
  • If your company has a HR department, consider talking to them. Their responsibility is to the company, not to you, but they will want to prevent the company getting into legal trouble if you do get pushed out. Their remedies may include disciplining those doing the harrassment. Or if the situation can't be saved, they may be able to make a compromise agreement with you that gives you a pay-off to leave the company without raising a legal fight.
  • Regardless of any of the above, brush up your CV and start looking for alternative employment. Honestly, if your colleagues dislike you enough for things to get to this point then the situation is probably not salvageable; no-one is going to be happy if you stay put, least of all you; you're going to spend your whole time wondering what people think of you.
  • 3
    Your constructive dismissal point looks spot on to me, particularly in light of the comments from the OP suggesting HR agreed with the person who told the OP to resign. It hits potentially 2 or 3 of the points on this list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_dismissal#Grounds. I'd probably add to that though, that with vicarious liability if HR are being seen to condone such bullying then it can be legally equivalent to them having made the comment themselves. As always professional advice is needed here though. – Flexo Oct 2 '18 at 17:42
2

I would argue this more accurately falls under what is known as constructive dismissal (link).

Constructive dismissal is where an employer or employers act in a hostile, unfriendly manner (essentially making a workplace toxic) in the hopes that you will leave of your own accord, in an attempt to circumvent usual protections around being fired (you are required to receive a written formal notice of complaint for less serious issues).

Contrary to the claims made by others that you might have earned it, I find the fact they are trying to encourage you to leave (rather than firing you via an appropriate process) particularly dubious. If you had caused distress or issues with your fellow employees, the normal course of action is a written complaint or disciplinary action (or a firing for more serious issues). This scenario is none of those things.

Additionally:

A quote from UK law for Employment Rights Act 1996 section 95(1)c:

The employee terminates the contract under which he is employed (with or without notice) in circumstances in which he is entitled to terminate it without notice by reason of the employer's conduct.

Assuming you haven't caused the issues, I would also advise you document the hostilities in a book (maybe not during work time but afterwards), including dates and times. Escalate to a manager (if they're not involved) or HR as appropriate. The organisation most likely to help you outside of the organisation is the employment tribunal.

1

You can also respond in a supercorrect way:

Thank you, sir/madam, for pointing this out to me. You mentioned the word 'we', so you're not the only one with this opinion. I'd like you to get a full list of names, followed by their autographs, where colleagues confirm this statement. Can you deliver me this paper? Thanks in advance.

In case (s)he gives you this list, you might use it and file harassment charges against every person on that list.
But I think it won't go that far: that bully will realise that you dare standing up to his/her harassment, and even if (s)he tries to get this list from other colleagues, it's very doubtful that anybody will dare putting his/her name and/or autograph on it.

And you don't even need to wait for that person to come to you again. You can go to this person and say:

Recently you told me that you (in plural) don't want me here and that you want me to quit. Please provide me with a list of names, followed by their autographs...

Good luck

  • 1
    Why would they do anything other than laugh in your face if you attempted this? – Matthew Read Oct 2 '18 at 18:57
  • @MatthewRead: let them laugh! At least you stand up for yourself. Look, there are two possibilities: either it helps or it doesn't. In case it does: good for you. In case it does not, you can still contact HR or take other measures. I don't believe there is one single tactic that solves everything by wonder. But silently swallowing everything isn't the solution either. – Dominique Oct 2 '18 at 21:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.