What is bullying?

The Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice Detailing Procedures for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace) (Declaration) Order 2002 [Statutory Instrument No.208 of 2002] defines workplace bullying as:

 

“….repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying.” (emphasis added)

 

Bullying as a cause of action was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in Quigley v.  Complex Tooling and Moulding Ltd [2009] 1 IR 349. The definition from the 1990 Code of Practice was accepted as an accurate statement of the common duty of care and Fennelly J. also held that bullying must be repeated, inappropriate and undermining of the dignity of the employee at work.[1]  Further to this definition Fennelly J. also held that a plaintiff must prove that he suffered damage amounting to a personal injury as a result of the breach of duty and that where this is not of a direct physical kind it must amount to an identifiable psychiatric injury.

 

However there is still no specific piece of legislation that covers bullying and there are various ways a claim can be taken including under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2005, Codes of Practice, or as a psychological injury. Sexual harassment has separate statutory recognition under the equality acts and as such will not be dealt with here.

[1] Quigley v. Complex Tooling and Moulding Ltd [2009] 1 IR 349, at 371

 

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