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Can a Claimant be harassed if they were not aware of the act of harassment?

No, held the EAT in the recent case of Greasley-Adams v Royal Mail Group Limited.

The Claimant argued that he had suffered harassment in relation to his disability by reason of conduct which he was not aware of at the time it occurred. He only became aware of the conduct when it was revealed as part of a bullying and harassment investigation against him by colleagues.

The EAT held that these incidents could not have had the ‘effect’ of violating the Claimant's dignity before the time at which he became aware of them. It held that the perception of the person claiming harassment was a key and mandatory component in determining whether or not harassment has occurred. If there was no awareness, there could be no perception.

It also held that when the Claimant did become aware of the acts of harassment it was not reasonable, given the context in which he had become aware of them (as part of an investigation into his alleged bullying), for them to be considered as having violated his dignity.

This case confirms that harassment under the Equality Act 2010 takes place when the complainant becomes aware of the unwanted conduct rather than when the conduct occurs.