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What is discriminatory harassment?

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Discriminatory harassment is defined by Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010, as follows:

(1) A person (A) harasses another (B) if—

(a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and

(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of—

(i) violating B's dignity, or

(ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

The relevant protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010 are -

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex or
  • Sexual orientation

Such harassment can occur in the workplace or at the hands of an organisation providing service or undertaking a public function with whom you engage in your day to day life.  

Harassment can take the form of verbal comments being made to you or physical actions or gestures being directed at you, relating to a protected characteristic. You could also be harassed through written correspondence too, such as in a letter or email.

The law does not specifically require the person engaging in the unwanted conducted to have the intention of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, as long as it has the effect of doing so.

You can report harassment directly to your employer or service provider in the first instance. However, it may be the case that the harassment continues regardless of your complaint.

In any event if you feel that you have been or you are being harassed as a result of a protected characteristic, then it is important to bear in mind that from the date of the act of discrimination you have only three months less one day to bring an claim in the employment tribunal or six months less one day to bring a claim in the County Court in respect of a civil claims. If you feel that you have been discriminated against by your employer or by another organisation, our discrimination law team can help. Please contact our specialist team on 0175 321 6399.

By Ashleigh Irwin, employment and discrimination advisor

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