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Workplace Bullying- proposal for reform

Workplace Bullying- proposal for reform

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Máire Bell. Originally submitted for LLB. at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Ursula connolly in the category of Law
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Máire Bell. Originally submitted for LLB. at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Ursula connolly in the category of Law

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Workplace bullying – proposals for reform
IntroductionWorkplace Bullying can seriously harm the lives of victims of this behaviour.
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Researchcarried out by the ESRI on behalf of the Taskforce on the Prevention of WorkplaceBullying revealed that about 7.9 per cent of the Irish workforce recorded themselves ashaving been bullied in the six months preceding the survey.
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There is no appropriate procedure for combating this behaviour in the workplace and no specific legal remedyavailable to them and it is clear that the current multiplicity of jurisdictions and cause of actions serves no-one’s interest.
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From an employer’s perspective, the increase in casesinvolving bullying, stress and harassment present challenges in the running of commercial and public undertakings, particularly in terms of organisational andmanagement culture. Increasingly, commercial and public undertakings are redirectingresources to meet such challenges ranging from employee awareness programmes andmanagement retraining to re-writing health and safety statements. However, in theabsence of clarity in the law, employers often find themselves fighting rearguard actionsin trying to reconcile pressurised work environments with complex and opaque legalrules.
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1
Sam Middlemiss and Olga Hay,
‘ 
Legal Redress against Employers for Victims of Workplace Bullying’Part 1
 
[2003] 16 I.L.T. 250 1
2
The Economic and Social Research Institute,
 Bullying in the Workplace: Survey Reports
 
2007 
[2007] 53
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Sam Middlemiss and Olga Hay,
‘ 
Legal Redress against Employers for Victims of Workplace Bullying
’ 
Part 1
 
[2003] 16 I.L.T. 250 1
4
Niall Neligan, ‘Jurisdictions and causes of action: Commercial issues in dealing with bullying, stress andharassment cases’ Part 1 (2008) 15(1) CLP 1
1
 
In my essay I will highlight the severity of this problem and outline the shortfall in legal protection available to victims of bullying. I will also study attempts by other  jurisdictions to prevent workplace bullying and suggest solutions to this dilemma. Nature and Effects of Workplace BullyingMiddlemiss and Hay observe that bullying can take many forms and guises including:constantly criticising, belittling, degrading, shouting at, humiliating, overworking,denying job information, singling out for unfavourable treatment, threatening,ostracizing, trivial-fault finding, applying unrealistic deadlines, assaulting andridiculing.
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.There is no statutory definition of bullying however, The Report of the Expert AdvisoryGroup on Workplace Bullying defined 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 placeof work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regardedas undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
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Some commentators have noted that bullying is an entirely subjective experience thishowever does not constitute a basis for failing to tackle the issue, whether at the level of 
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Sam Middlemiss and Olga Hay,‘Legal Redress against Employers for Victims of Workplace Bullying’Part 1 [2003] 16 I.L.T. 250 2
6
 
 Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying 
( Stationary Press Office 2005) 11
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the workplace or by the State. The issue of bullying in the workplace has severeramifications for the alleged victim of the bullying and for the employer .
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For the allegedvictim stress, ill health, serious career difficulties and low productivity, are commonimpacts.
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For the employer a dysfunctional workplace, more frequent absenteeism, poor morale, industrial relations problems, higher labour turnover and possible litigation, bothin the civil and criminal courts are all common impacts.
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Cause of ActionsThere is no one statute dealing with bullying in the workplace. There is however, avariety of causes of action under which a bullying claim may be brought against anemployer. From an employer’s perspective, he or she will need to be familiar with thedifferent laws and venues where a bullying claim may be brought. Typically, a plaintiff ina bullying case can rely on the following causes of action: breach of contract, the tort of negligence, an action for unfair dismissals, an action arising due to breach of health andsafety legislation, and equality law.Tortious claims for psychiatric injuriesThe issue of the employers liability for bullying and work-related stress that results in psychiatric injury to the employee has been one of the main growth areas of Irishemployment law in recent years
 While substantial jurisprudence existed for dealing with
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 Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying 
( Stationary Press Office 2005) 11
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ibin
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ibin
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Brendan Daly and Michael Doherty, Principles of Irish Employment Law (Clarus Press) 259
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