What is harassment?
Harassment includes behaviour ‘causing alarm or distress’ and also the more serious offence of ‘putting people in fear of violence’ which are both offences under Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act.
‘Harassment’ is not specifically defined in the Act but it can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.
In addition, there MUST be evidence to prove the conduct was targeted at an individual, was calculated to alarm or cause him/her distress and was oppressive and unreasonable.
Harassment of Groups of People
Closely connected groups of people may also be subjected to ‘collective’ harassment. The primary intention of this type of harassment is not generally directed at an individual but rather at members of a group. This could include; members of the same family, residents of a particular neighbourhood, groups of a specific identity including ethnicity or sexuality. For example, it would include the racial harassment of the users of a specific ethnic community centre, harassment of a group of disabled people, harassment of gay clubs, or harassment of those engaged in a specific trade or profession.
Harassment of an individual can also occur when a person harasses others connected with that individual, knowing that it will affect their victim as well as the others they are harassing. This is known as ‘stalking by proxy’. It might mean that family members, friends and employees of the victim are harassed.
Types of harassment
Harassment includes any unwanted behaviour such as verbal and written abuse, sexual harassment, offensive comments on social networks, offensive behaviour presented as jokes.
Harassment at Work
Harassment at work includes:
- Threats or abuse (spoken or written);
- Sexual advances;
- Offensive emails, tweets, or comments on social networking sites;
- Offensive emblems or flags;
- Physical behaviour like gestures or facial expressions;
- Pranks, jokes, or teasing;
- Exclusion or victimisation;
- Spreading rumours;
- Undermining a competent employee with constant criticism.