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What To Do If You're Harassed At Work — And HR Isn't Helping

Know your rights.

Employees can be harassed in a variety of ways at work.

What's important to understand, however, is that harassment in the workplace affect you and impact your career in different ways.

Knowing what constitutes harassment can help you spot it and handle it if it happens to you, or even better, help you prevent it from happening in the first place.

This includes recognising what qualifies as harassment, how to file a harassment claim, and what to do if you lose your job because you've reported harassment.

Where an employee is harassed or on any of the nine grounds within the workplace or in the course of their employment, this will generally be regarded as discrimination by the employer, unless the employer can establish that it took reasonably practicable steps to prevent the employee from being harassed.


In smaller companies, it can be hard to even figure out who to report discrimination/harassment to (or that person may work different shifts than you, making it tough to talk to them). Check your contract/employee handbook, ask co-workers, or check online for a number you can call. 

For further information on how to deal with reporting or who to turn to when no one will listen, check out Citizens Information here

Meeting With HR

For those of you dealing with a HR person, organise a meeting and come prepared. Make a list of instances of the offending behaviours. Save voicemails, and emails, screenshot Slack chats and/or texts if they happened digitally. If the harassment was in person, take notes or write up memos of disturbing meetings, phone calls or conversations immediately after they happen so the details are fresh in your mind.

Document your meetings with HR, too — who you met with and when, and what you spoke about, should you ever need them in a legal case in the future.

Bullying at work when it is related to one of the discriminatory grounds is covered by the Employment Equality Acts.

Harassment and bullying at work which is not linked to a discriminatory ground is a health and safety issue. The Health and Safety Authority provides information and advice on bullying at work.


Check if your situation is covered by the EEA. Only certain kinds of discrimination are covered. 

Learn the differences between: 

  • Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less well than other people on purpose, because of who they are.  It is also direct discrimination if a manager tells a worker to treat another worker less well than other people.
  • Indirect discrimination is when someone is treated less well than other people because there are requirements which they would find harder than others to fulfil.

What Next?

If you’re considering leaving or suing your company, it can be better to be fired than to quit.

Later on, should your case turn into a lawsuit, the company could defend itself by saying it didn’t mistreat or even fire you — you left on your own. From the human point of view, though, if staying at your job is making you so miserable that you can’t take it anymore, don’t just stay for the sake of a hypothetical lawsuit. Especially when there are no guarantees that you’d win. 

If the person harassing or discriminating against you is your manager or a co-worker, try asking for a transfer to another department or location.

For all other queries, contact the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission here.

Main image by @hommegirls

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