In the Ruffley case [in which Burns Nowlan acted on behalf of the employee] the Supreme Court ultimately held that a breach of fair procedures does not, in and of itself, constitute “bullying”. The Court stated that it was important “not to blur the distinction” between a claim for breach of procedures and a claim of bullying, noting that while the “denial of fair procedures is never a trivial matter” it did not, in this case, amount to “undermining of human dignity“.
In order to succeed in a claim of bullying the conduct complained of must be repeated; amount to inappropriate behaviour; and undermine the employee’s dignity in the workplace.
Repeated: The conduct to be repeated in order in the test for bullying requires a “pattern of behaviour“, not a “number of incidents“.
Inappropriate: “Inappropriate behaviour” means the behaviour complained must be inappropriate at a human level “not merely wrong”
Undermine dignity at work: The conduct toqualify as undermining an individual’s right to dignity at work must be “both severe and normally offensive at a human level“.
NOTE: In the Ruffley case , although the decision of the High Court was ultimately overturned , the Supreme Court awarded the employee a portion of her High Court legal costs and made no order requring the return of a significant amount of the damages paid to the employee pending the finalisation of her appeal.
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