Occupational bullying, legal remedies, harassment, common law.
Our understanding of the nature and effect of bullying behaviour has developed dramatically over the past forty or so years. Despite this however Ireland does not have a dedicated legal remedy for workplace bullying. Soft-law mechanisms such as Codes of Practice and policies, such as Dignity at Work policies, are welcome but legally ineffectual mechanisms for protecting employees from bullying behaviour. In the absence of a dedicated legally enforceable provision affected workers are required to rely on a range of actions, some of which were never designed with bullying in mind. These include constructive dismissals actions, personal injuries actions in negligence pursuant to health and safety legislation, discriminatory harassment actions and reliance on the industrial relations mechanism now operated by the Workplace Relations Commission. This paper argues that the inappropriateness of these provisions creates a lacuna in Irish law and acts as a barrier to access to justice for workers subjected to bullying. It further argues that as bullying undermines a personís right to dignity in the workplace in much the same way as discriminatory harassment, it should be similarly prohibited. It therefore argues that a specific legislative provision should be introduced which mirrors the level of protection offered against discriminatory harassment.