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  • Writer's picturePatrick Moriarty

Harassment in the Workplace – The Awkward Practical Reality of Internal Disciplinary Procedures

Peter McDonnell & Associates have represented over 2000 victims in abuse/bullying/marginalisation cases as verified by the Dept. of Education & Skills. Call us on 087 2285247 or and we shall explain the legal landscape around workplace harassment and how legal & expert witness fees are paid.

This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring bullying and harassment in the workplace and the uneasy role of internal employment affair processes which put the employer in the position of judge, jury and executioner.

Jane can still remember her excitement the day she started as a trainee auditor at one of the world’s largest accounting firms. She was wowed by the firm’s UK headquarters and the buzz she got after being given a company phone, a laptop and a corporate credit card. “It was super exciting. I felt like — this is it, I am proud of myself and I’ve made my parents proud.”

She was asked to join an audit team at a major Asian client in London. But soon she became uneasy. A senior manager in the audit team — who was popular among partners and trainees — began paying her a lot of attention. When she went to pick up a dinner order for the team from Wagamama, he would insist on accompanying her.

Although her team had a “hot desking” system, he often ended up sitting next to her. One evening before Christmas 2009, he left her a voicemail. He sounded drunk and made several sexually explicit references, including saying that he wanted to “f**k” her, and that he “needed and wanted” her. She hoped it was just a drunken phone call that she could forget after the holiday. But by January, she says, his behaviour became even more extreme. He would leave Post-it notes on her desk, saying she looked “hot”.

One evening, she says, he followed her as she left the office. When she hailed a black cab to escape, he jumped in as well, then followed her into the Apple Store and pressured her to go for a drink with him. When she refused, he put his hands on her shoulders and shook her. Exasperated, afraid and on the brink of tears, she pushed him away and again asked him to leave her alone. He finally left.

“That’s when I thought, surely now he’s got the message that I’m not interested? But it did not stop him,” she says. In the weeks that followed, he started booking one-on-one meetings that she felt obliged to attend. She would arrive with her laptop and notebook, only for the senior manager to tell her to put them away and bombard her with requests to meet him for a drink. “By that time, I reached breaking point. I kept thinking, how am I going to get through this? I just cannot do this.

What do I do? Do I go straight to HR?” The firm’s HR team set up a meeting between Jane, her line manager, a partner and the senior manager she had complained about. In the meeting, she says, she was pressured into accepting a verbal apology from him for making her feel “uncomfortable” and asked to sign a document — which she was never given a copy of — stating that she accepted the apology and agreeing to a confidentiality clause. “I signed it because I was scared and did not feel I had any option,” she says. As soon as she qualified as an auditor, she quit and moved into another industry. The senior manager was promoted to partner within two years and remains at the firm today.

Peter McDonnell & Associates

At Peter McDonnell & Associates we know from experience that the single greatest cause of worry for clients is the issue of legal fees.

Contact us on 087 2285247 or and we shall explain the legal landscape around workplace harassment and how legal & expert witness fees are paid.

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or a proportion of any award or settlement.

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