“In Ireland, can employees sue their employer for bullying?”

Question: What are the circumstances in which an employee will be able to sue their employer for bullying in the workplace and psychological damage deriving from so called “workplace stress?”  

Dublin, Ireland

Answer: Dear Allie, Though I am not licensed to practice law in Ireland, I did a bit of research and found that Ireland is really quite progressive when it comes to protecting employees from “Bully Bosses.” It sets up a resolution procedure that attempts to make lawsuits for bullying unnecessary. Here’s what I found out:         

1. Ireland has passed a Code of Practice to Deal with Workplace Bulling. Though it seems there has been a dramatic increase, worldwide, in the incidence of bullying at work, Ireland is one of the few countries I know of that has passed a law to prevent, and deal with, workplace bullying. In fact, Ireland first passed a law aimed at preventing workplace bullying in 2002. In 2007 it passed an improved law to resolve employee complaints. The improved law was drawn up by the Irish Health and Safety Authority (“HSA”), and came into effect on May 1, 2007. Its title is “Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work.”

2. The Irish Code of Practice provides a wide-ranging definition of “bullying.” It is “repeated inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.” I must say that I am very impressed with the broad definition, which seems widely applicable to all sorts of bullying at work.  

3. The Irish Bullying Code requires an internal investigation and a written set of investigation findings. The Irish Bullying Code lays out a formal procedure that gives each of the employee(s), the alleged bully(s) and management certain specified responsibilities to resolve bullying disputes, and even requires preventive training by all who may be involved in such disputes. The forms necessary to set the process in motion are available from the Irish HSA by calling 1-890-289-3809, or by emailing a request to wcu@hsa.ie.

4. After the required process, an employee can also then bring a formal lawsuit. If the complaining employee is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she is then authorized to bring a formal suit against the alleged bully boss or bully colleague for any damages suffered – and can use the findings of the required investigation in his or her formal lawsuit.   

Allie, I hope this is helpful to you, though I have not been able to determine precisely how to bring a lawsuit for “psychological damages from workplace stress.” The informal procedure I have outlined above is intended to provide whatever remedy may be necessary or appropriate for any harm done by a bully boss or bully colleague.

Thank you for writing in. Please “spread the word” about our blog to your friends and colleagues in Dublin!

Al Sklover

Repairing the World - 
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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