Miss Veakins, a trainee electrician, successfully brought a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (the Act) after she was victimised and demoralised by her supervisor and became clinically depressed. It was held that the employer’s conduct crossed the line into conduct which was oppressive and unreasonable. It was also conduct that would, in the court’s opinion, sustain criminal liability. The conduct had been “extraordinary”.

The Court of Appeal held that, when deciding if conduct amounts to harassment for the purposes of the Act, the primary focus should be on whether the conduct is “oppressive and unacceptable”, although the conduct should also be of the type that “would sustain criminal liability”.

The Court of Appeal noted that in the great majority of cases involving harassment, high-handed or discriminatory misconduct by or on behalf of an employer would be more fi ttingly dealt with in the Employment Tribunal. However, this case does clarify that a civil claim for harassment under the Act does remain open for employees where the conduct complained of crosses the threshold of being oppressive and unacceptable (rather than being unattractive, unreasonable or regrettable).

Veakins v Kier Islington Ltd