This is another significant success using the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The Judge found the claimant was exposed to “behaviour by colleagues which might seem childish and petty (in isolation) but dealing with it on a daily basis had a cumulative effect”.
This included: excluding her from group activities to which every other member of the team was invited, making raspberry noises as she walked, going silent when she entered the room, taking her name off circulation lists on email and hiding her post and removing papers from her desk .The full list of behaviour is at paragraph 70 of the judgment.
The defendant said that the claimant was ultra-sensitive to such treatment .
However, there was detailed witness evidence from a colleague confirming that the claimant and others had been deliberately excluded from the group, e.g:
“it is hard to convey the impact of such behaviour but when you are faced with it every day, as Helen was, it really starts to affect you”.
The Judge had to answer the following questions positively to find for the claimant:
a) Had the alleged harassment occurred on at least two occasions? Yes.
b) Was it targeted at the claimant? Yes – “she was subjected to a relentless campaign of mean and spiteful behaviour”.
c) Was it calculated in an objective sense to cause distress? Yes – the witnesses had confirmed this and that it was not abnormal sensitivity on the claimant’s part.
d) Were the actions objectively judged to be oppressive and unreasonable and thus capable of being defined as harassment? Yes – on any reasonable view this was harassment as the word is generally understood.
The Judge was also satisfied that the defendant should be vicariously liable for the employees who had acted in this way. Aspects of the behaviour involved work that some of the employees were required to undertake and there was a sufficiently close connection between the employment and the behaviour for it to be just and reasonable to hold the defendant liable for it.
The judge also found negligence in failing to stamp down on the bullying when it had been drawn to managers’ attention. Obvious steps to avert the bullying included warning those who were bullying that, if they persisted, disciplinary action would follow.
It was reasonably foreseeable this bullying ,when pursued on a daily basis, would cause a risk of psychiatric injury even more so as the Defendant knew the Claimant had suffered depression in the recent past before taking her job.
The claimant suffered a severe psychiatric injury and received £35,000 general damages. The remainder was largely loss of earnings.
Green -v- DB Group Services (UK) Limited, CA