A building attendant who suffered from bullying and harassment at work has been awarded damages in an out of court settlement by his employer, Gateshead Council. In a growing area of law which can hold employers accountable for the wayward behaviour of their staff, this case was brought with the assistance and support of UNISON and Thompsons Solicitors.

Mr Shaun Kernon, 38, who lives in Newcastle, took up employment at the Gateshead Civic Centre in 2001 and since starting employment was subjected to numerous incidents of bullying and harassment from a colleague.

In bringing the action, Mr Kernon had to prove that there was a course of conduct which was oppressive, unreasonable and unacceptable, and that this was closely connected to his employment. It was medically proven that he had suffered a depressive illness which required treatment.

Only since the ground breaking House of Lords case of ‘Majrowski v. Guy’s and St.Thomas’ NHS Trust’ in 2006 have employers been held to be liable for harassment by employees.

Commenting, Mr Kernon’s representative at Thompsons Solicitors, David Mole, said: “This was a challenging case, especially as the Council intended to call 11 witnesses, all of whom said that the alleged harassment had not occurred. It was important to fight this case because bullying and harassment in the workplace is completely unacceptable and needs to be stamped out, as it is being done in schools. We proceeded on the basis that if Mr Kernon’s evidence was believed by the court then he should succeed under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.”

UNISON representative, Gill Hale, said: “This case should make other employers sit up and realise that employees who bully colleagues are their responsibility. Such behaviour is unacceptable in the workplace.”

Mr Kernon said: “I hope the action I’ve taken will help to improve the lives of other people at work. Bullying and harassment is something you hear about in classrooms, but it is extremely unpleasant, especially if it goes on over a long period of time. I’m thankful to UNISON for their assistance and also to Thompsons Solicitors who were with me every step of the way.”

The case was intended to go to trial in June 2007 before the Council offered to settle. The amount of compensation is undisclosed.