The English High Court has awarded £852,000 in damages to an employee who brought a claim against her employer after suffering bullying and harassment from fellow employees (Green v DB Group Services Limited ("DB")).
 
Ms Green embarked on a relationship with her head of department shortly after beginning work with DB as a company secretary assistant. This led to her being subjected to a "relentless campaign of mean and spiteful behaviour" by four women she worked in close proximity to and to behaviour from a male co-worker which she described as "domineering, disrespectful, dismissive, confrontational, and designed to undermine and belittle her in the view of others". Ms Green claimed this caused her to suffer from a psychiatric illness, and after her employment was terminated she brought a claim against DB for personal injury and a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 ("PHA").
 
The Court accepted DB owed a duty to its employees to take reasonable steps to protect them from foreseeable harm to their physical and mental health. In this case they held that whilst the individual incidents of bullying were not of major significance, it was their cumulative effect that was important.
 
It was held management knew or ought to have known about the bullying, which was a long-standing problem in the department and was raised by Ms Green in her first appraisal. The Court stated a "reasonable and responsible employer" would have intervened as soon as they became aware of the issue, but instead DB had "collectively closed their eyes" to it. Therefore the Court held DB had failed in their duty to Ms Green by failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour complained of and were therefore vicariously liable.
 
Despite the fact the four women did not work with Ms Green the Court held there was a close connection between the women's employment and the behaviour therefore it was just and reasonable to hold DB liable. The Court also held the behaviour of Ms Green's fellow employees amounted to harassment under the PHA as it occurred with great frequency, was targeted at her and calculated to cause her distress. No separate damages were awarded for the breach of PHA with this being taken into account in the assessment of general damages.

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