(either harris-meant or huh-rass-meant) n. the act of systematic and/or continuedunwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands.The purposes may vary, including racial prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to forcesomeone to quit a job or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, ormerely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious. Such activitiesmay be the basis for a lawsuit if due to discrimination based on race or sex, a violation onthe statutory limitations on collection agencies, involve revenge by an ex-spouse, or beshown to be a form of blackmail ("I'll stop bothering you, if you'll go to bed with me"). Thevictim may file a petition for a "stay away" (restraining) order, intended to prevent contactby the offensive party. A systematic pattern of harassment by an employee againstanother worker may subject the employer to a lawsuit for failure to protect the worker.(See: harass, sexual harassment)
Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
1 the offence in England of using threatening or abusive or insulting words withinthe hearing or sight of a person likely to be harassed thereby: Public Order Act1986.
2 conduct which may require a person to be given legal protection in terms of theProtection from Harassment Act 1997. For these purposes harassment is notdefined but it includes causing the person alarm or distress. For the courts to actunder this legislation the harassment was caused by a course of conduct. This isdefined in the Act as conduct on more than one occasion. It need not be the sameconduct on each occasion. There are defences such as that the conduct wasreasonable in the circumstances. It is not open to plead as a defence that it was notintended by the alleged offender that alarm be caused. It is enough if his or herconduct would cause harassment, if a reasonable person, in possession of thesame information, would think that the course of conduct would have that effect.Similar rules apply in Scotland.
3 it is an offence in England to harass a person with demands for payment that arecalculated to subject him or his household to alarm, distress or humiliation, or topretend that criminal proceedings might be possible if payment is not made:Administration of Justice Act 1970.
4 harassment is not of itself a tort but the Protection from Harassment Act 1997,effectively creates a statutory tort and delict in Scotland.
5 sexual harassment of employees has become a rhetorical focus in employmentlaw- a way of unfairly dismissing or a way of creating circumstances such that the‘victim needs to resign and claim constructive dismissal. See UNFAIR DISMISSAL.
6 special powers exist where there is harrassment of a person in his or her home:Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. The police have power to direct persons toleave the vicinity of residential premises, if their presence or behaviour there islikely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and failure to comply is itself anoffence.
7 collective harassment arises where there is a campaign of harassment by more than one person.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006