Wolf Whistling Builders and the Protection from Harassment Act

leering0204_468x349Poppy Smart, 23, from Worcester has taken an unusual step to try to prevent wolf whistles and comments directed at her by workers on a local building site. Ms Smart was constantly subjected to disrespectful comments and whistling whilst walking to work.

The comments by the builders led to Ms Smart feeling embarrassed and intimidated. This even led her to consider taking an alternative route to work. Following an encounter with a builder where he blocked her path and said ‘morning love’ Ms Smart decided to report the conduct to the police. The Police were involved however Ms Smart was happy for no further action to be taken.

Although no action was taken by the Police the matter did generate a large amount of publicity with differing opinions regarding the severity of the conduct. From a legal perspective the comments made could potentially attract liability under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The Act states that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment. If the comments made by the builders were sufficiently serious then they could be in breach of the Act. The Act has both criminal and civil remedies.

Employers should be aware that they are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. As such liability could be attached to the owners of the building site if established. The law states that employers are vicariously liable where there is a sufficiently close connection between the offending conduct and the employment and if the harassment can be established as a reasonably incidental risk to the employment.  Any case would rest on its own facts and merits; however the employers in this case could be vicariously liable if the above principles are founded.

It is important for employers to understand their position with regards to the Protection from Harassment Act and ensure that they are taking all steps possible to stamp out intimidating and harassing behaviour.

If you would like any further information on anything detailed in the above article then please do not hesitate to contact Michael Lewin Solicitors on the above telephone number or by email at stress@michaellewin.co.uk

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