Sexual Harassment and Harassment in the Workplace

Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, sexual harassment and harassment of an employee (including agency workers and trainees) in the workplace are against the law. This includes sexual harassment and harassment by:

  • co-workers
  • the employer
  • clients, customers or other business contacts of the employer, including anyone the employer could reasonably expect the worker to come into contact with.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 define harassment as unwanted conduct which is related to any of the 9 discriminatory grounds. Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. In both cases it is defined as conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person and it is prohibited under the Acts.

Harassment is defined in section 14A(7) of the Acts as any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform produced an updated Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment in 2012.   The code seeks to promote the development and implementation of policies and procedures which establish working environments free of sexual harassment and harassment and in which the dignity of everyone is respected. The provisions of the code are admissible in evidence and if relevant may be taken into account in any criminal or other proceedings before a court.

The code states that employers should adopt, implement and monitor a comprehensive, effective and accessible policy on sexual harassment and harassment. The policy should be devised in consultation with employees and trade unions and should set out what constitutes sexual harassment and harassment; who is responsible for implementing the policy; and how complaints will be dealt with.

For the full code see:

Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment  DJELR 2012

Please note that these factsheets are for information only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such.