Disability harassment occurs when, due to an employee’s disability, their employer engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of either violating their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
Examples of disability harassment might include:
- Negative or offensive remarks about someone’s disability
- Telling jokes or making fun of someone’s disability
- Unwelcome discussion regarding the impact of disability
- Refusing to work with people with disabilities
- People with disabilities being excluded from meetings or social events
Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect of violating someone’s dignity etc only if, in all the circumstances, including the victim’s perception, it could be reasonably seen has to have that effect.
The concept of the victim’s ‘reasonableness’ can sometimes make it difficult to win such cases.
Disability discrimination can be the general culture of the organisation and doesn’t necessarily have to be directed at individuals. Therefore, it is possible to make a disability discrimination claim even where the discrimination is not directed at the claimant personally.
An example of this might be that an employee without a disability makes a claim that they have witnessed the discrimination of a disabled colleague and have been offended by this.
Harassment by third parties is now included in an extension to the law under the Act. This means that now employers will be liable for harassment on the basis of their employee’s disability by clients, customers, suppliers or patients in some circumstances.
If your employer knew or should have known that you have been harassed on at least two previous occasions during the course of your employment by a third party (not necessarily the same form of harassment or even the same third party on each occasion) and failed to prevent it from happening again by carrying out reasonable steps, then they may be liable under the Act.