Defined as unwarranted conduct related to any of the protected characteristic that violates your dignity or creates a hostile or offensive environment for you.
The behaviour is deemed offensive by you the recipient. You can complain not only if the offensive behaviour is directed at you, but also if directed at someone else or even at no-one in particular. It may have to do with your or someone else’s protected characteristic. It may not have anything to do with you but you still find it offensive.
What’s the effect of or the intention behind the harassment?
The Equality Act says it’s harassment where the behaviour is meant to or has the effect of either:
This means it’s harassment even if the person harassing you didn’t mean to offend or intimidate you, as long as the harassment has one of the above effects. So its no defense for the perpetrator to say, ‘I was only joking’.
If you go to court, the judge may have to decide if it’s harassment or not. They will look at how the behaviour made you feel and whether it’s reasonable for you to feel this way.
Unwanted behaviour could be:
You don’t need to have previously objected to something for it to be unwanted.
Also prohibited is sex-related harassment, which means unwanted conduct related to the protected characteristic of sex. The unwanted conduct does not have to be directed towards the complainant or related to his or her actual sex. This could include telling jokes about women or making derogatory sexist remarks about women.
And less favourable treatment based on a person’s rejection of or submission to sexual or sex-related harassment is also unlawful. This could cover circumstances where a woman is rejected for promotion by her boss after turning down his sexual advances.
You’re a woman. Whenever you work out at your local gym the other male gym users tease you and make insulting comments– for example, that it’s better not talk to you right now as it must be your time of the month again. You could have a claim for harassment related to sex.
A bus driver is making racist comments about black people whilst driving. This isn’t addressed at anyone in particular, but it creates an intimidating and hostile environment for the passengers, including you, who are on the bus. You could bring a claim for harassment related to race even though you’re not black.
You go out for dinner with your lesbian ‘mums’ to celebrate your birthday. Some of the restaurant staff make anti-gay comments to each other throughout the evening about your parents. The comments are loud enough for everyone to hear. You find the comments offensive and feel very distressed by the staff’s behaviour. You could have a claim for harassment related to sexual orientation.