Subject him to “serial farting”
In an Australian employment case, David Hingst sought $1.8million (£966,732) in damages after alleging that his work colleague Greg Short would subject him to “serial farting”, 5 or 6 times a day in a windowless, small room and then simply walk away.
The Australian Supreme Court found that this did not amount to bullying but what would the UK legal position be?
Bullying is unwanted conduct intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or offend the recipient.
It may be by an individual against an individual or involve groups of people.
It may be obvious or it may be insidious.
It may take place in private or in public.
Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.
So what about the flatulence?
Employers are legally responsible for preventing acts of bullying at work but what amounts to bullying isn’t always easy to spot.
Conduct may be bullying whether or not the person intended to offend.
Something intended as a “joke” or as “office banter” may offend another person.
This is because different employees find different levels of behaviour acceptable and everyone has the right to decide for themselves what behaviour they find acceptable to them.
So in terms of the UK law, it is possible that if the case had been brought here it could have succeeded because of our legal definitions of bullying.
Make sure therefore that you deal with any complaints about an employee’s personal habits properly and don’t ignore or pass off as a joke as it’s how the recipient perceives the act that is important, not the intention behind it.
It is worth noting that if the bullying behaviour is linked to a protected characteristic, it will also amount to harassment so where an employee’s personal behaviours cause a problem, speak to them to nip it in the bud and get them to change.
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