'Course of conduct'

In Marinello v City of Edinburgh Council the Scottish Court of Session considered a case where an employee had experienced a number of incidents of verbal bullying in the workplace in 2004 and 2005 following which he commenced, and remained on, long-term sick leave with a depressive disorder. In an isolated incident in 2007, while he was walking along a public road, two of his colleagues driving by in a van swerved the van towards him, sounded the horn and gesticulated at him.

The court decided that all these incidents together constituted a 'course of conduct' entitling him to claim harassment under the 1997 Act for which his employer could be vicariously liable.

Points to note –

  • The time limit for bringing a claim is 3 years, much longer than the three months time limit for harassment claims under the Equality Act
  • If there had not been several incidents in the workplace in 2004 and 2005, the court would have been less likely to make the employer vicariously liable for a course of conduct that included the last incident which took place in a public street. However, employers should appreciate that, in appropriate cases, they may be made legally liable for actions occurring outside the workplace.