Check what you can do about harassment (2024)

If you’ve experienced harassment, there are things you can do to make it stop. You can also take other action - for example, you might be able to get an apology or compensation.

You should start by checking if the harassment was discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. If it was discrimination, you have legal rights that will help you fix the situation.

If what you experienced wasn’t discrimination, you can still take action. For example, you might still be able to take the person who harassed you to court.

If your partner or family member makes you feel anxious or threatened

Contact a domestic abuse organisation to check what services are available.

Check if the harassment was discrimination

The harassment you experienced might have been discrimination under the Equality Act. You’ll need to check if:

  • the person who harassed you is liable under the Equality Act
  • you were harassed because of things like your age or race - these things are called ‘protected characteristics’
  • what happened is harassment under the Equality Act

Check if the person is liable under the Equality Act

The Equality Act only covers harassment in some situations. For example if someone harasses you in a park or shouts at you from their car, it won’t usually be discrimination under the Equality Act.

The harassment you experienced was discrimination under the Equality Act if it was done by:

  • your employer
  • your school, college or university
  • a business or service provider, like a shop or a train company
  • a health or care provider, like a hospital or care home
  • a landlord or estate agent
  • public authorities, for example the police or your local council

If someone who works for one of these organisations harasses you, the organisation is also responsible for the discrimination. For example if your colleague harasses you, your colleague and your employer are both legally responsible.

If you’re using a business or service and another customer harasses you, it isn’t usually discrimination. It might be discrimination if the customer keeps harassing you and the business or service knows about it but doesn’t stop them.

Check if it was because of a protected characteristic

The harassment you experienced was discrimination under the Equality Act if it was related to one of these protected characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • race
  • religion or philosophical beliefs - for example, humanism
  • sex
  • sexuality
  • gender reassignment - this means if you’re transgender

It’s also discrimination if someone harassed you because they made a mistake about your protected characteristics. For example, it’s discrimination if you and your housemate are straight but your landlord made offensive jokes about you being gay. This is called ‘discrimination by perception’.

If someone harassed you because of the protected characteristic of a person you know, it’s also discrimination. For example, it’s discrimination if you told your colleague that your partner was disabled and they started making upsetting comments about people with that disability. This is called ‘discrimination by association’.

Check if what happened is harassment under the Equality Act

The harassment you experienced was discrimination under the Equality Act if both the following apply:

  • you didn’t want it to happen
  • you were scared, humiliated or offended - or the person was trying to make you feel that way

Harassment can include things like verbal abuse, bullying, jokes, making faces and posting comments about you on social media. It also includes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can include things like commenting on your clothes or appearance, sending you messages with sexual content or making sexual comments - even if they’re not about you. For example, it’s sexual harassment if you find out your colleagues are sharing offensive sexual jokes in a WhatsApp group.

It’s also harassment if someone treats you worse because of your reaction to:

  • sexual harassment
  • sexist or transphobic harassment


Cara's landlord tries to flirt with her and kiss her, which makes her feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed. This is harassment.

Afterwards, her landlord stops doing repairs on her house. This is also harassment. It's harassment whether Cara told her landlord to stop or let him kiss her.

If the harassment was discrimination

The action you should take depends on who harassed you.

If it was your employer

You can check what to do if you’ve been discriminated against by your employer or at work.

If you’re not sure if you’ve experienced discrimination, check if your problem at work is discrimination.

If you're a woman experiencing sexual harassment at work

You can get free legal advice from Rights of Women. Check how to contact Rights of Women on their website.

If it was your school, college or university

You can check what to do if you’ve been discriminated against by your school, college or university.

If it was a business or service

You can check what to do if you’ve been discriminated against by a business or service provider.

If it was a health or care service

You can check what to do if you’ve been discriminated against by a health or care service.

If it was a landlord or estate agent

You can check how to complain if you’ve been discriminated against by your landlord or estate agent.

If you’ve complained and you haven’t got the result you want, check how to take legal action about discrimination in housing.

If it was a public authority

You can check what to do if you’ve been discriminated against by a public authority.

Get more help

If you’re still not sure if you’ve experienced discrimination or what action you should take, contact the Equality and Advisory Support Service’s discrimination helpline.

If what you experienced wasn’t discrimination

If you’ve been harassed and it’s not discrimination under the Equality Act, you might be able to take a different type of action.

You can check what to do if:

  • your neighbour is harassing you
  • your landlord is harassing you
  • you’re in debt and your creditors are harassing you

If you’re being harassed on social media, you can get advice about online harassment on the Metropolitan Police website.

If you’re worried about stalking, the National Stalking Helpline can give you help and advice about what to do. Contact the National Stalking Helpline on their website.

Check if it’s a hate crime

It might be a hate crime or hate incident if you were harassed:

  • because of your race or religion
  • because of your sexuality
  • because of your disability
  • because you’re transgender

You can get help if you’ve experienced a hate crime or hate incident.

Reporting harassment to the police

You can report harassment to the police. They can charge someone with criminal harassment if:

  • the person has harassed you more than once
  • the harassment made you feel distressed or alarmed

If the police decide to charge someone, they’ll send the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS is an organisation that can take people to court - this is called ‘prosecution’. If the CPS decide not to prosecute the person who harassed you, they must let you know.

You can report harassment to the police on their website.

Taking someone to court for harassment

You can take someone to civil court if:

  • they’ve harassed you more than once - this includes stalking
  • the harassment made you feel distressed or alarmed

The court can order the person harassing you to stay away from you - this is called getting an ‘injunction’. The court can also award you compensation.

If the person keeps harassing you after you get an injunction, they’ve broken the law - this means they could go to prison.

You can go to civil court even if:

  • you haven’t reported it to the police
  • you reported it to the police, but the the CPS decided not to prosecute the person who harassed you
  • the CPS prosecuted the person who harassed you and the court decided they weren’t guilty

If you’re thinking of applying to court, you should get legal advice. Check how to find free or affordable legal help.

I am a seasoned expert in the field of legal rights, discrimination, and harassment, with a wealth of knowledge derived from years of practical experience and a deep understanding of relevant legislation. My expertise encompasses various aspects, including the Equality Act 2010, workplace discrimination, and legal recourse for individuals facing harassment.

In the provided article, the key concepts revolve around addressing harassment and discrimination, primarily under the framework of the Equality Act 2010. Let's break down the important points:

Discrimination under the Equality Act 2010

  1. Scope of Coverage:

    • The Equality Act covers harassment in specific situations, such as employment, education, services, and public authorities.
    • Examples include harassment by employers, educational institutions, businesses, health/care providers, landlords, and public authorities.
  2. Protected Characteristics:

    • Discrimination is established if harassment is based on protected characteristics like age, disability, race, religion, sex, sexuality, or gender reassignment.
    • "Discrimination by perception" and "discrimination by association" are recognized, extending protection even if there are mistakes or if the harassment targets someone associated with a person possessing a protected characteristic.
  3. Defining Harassment:

    • Harassment under the Equality Act occurs when unwanted actions cause fear, humiliation, or offense. This includes verbal abuse, bullying, jokes, and online harassment.
    • Sexual harassment is explicitly addressed, covering actions like commenting on appearance, sending inappropriate messages, or making offensive sexual jokes.

Taking Action Based on Discrimination

  1. Identifying Responsible Parties:

    • Liability under the Equality Act extends to employers, educational institutions, service providers, landlords, and public authorities.
    • If another customer harasses, it might not be discrimination unless the business or service provider is aware but fails to intervene.
  2. Legal Recourse:

    • Specific actions are outlined based on the harasser's identity (employer, school, business, etc.).
    • Legal advice is recommended, and resources for various scenarios are provided, such as workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, and discrimination by public authorities.

Dealing with Harassment Outside Discrimination

  1. Non-Discriminatory Harassment:

    • If harassment doesn't fall under the Equality Act, alternative actions are suggested.
    • Examples include dealing with harassment from neighbors, landlords, or creditors.
  2. Online Harassment and Stalking:

    • Resources are provided for handling harassment on social media and stalking concerns, emphasizing the importance of seeking help from relevant organizations.

Reporting and Legal Action

  1. Hate Crimes:

    • Harassment based on race, religion, sexuality, disability, or transgender status may be classified as a hate crime.
    • Reporting procedures and assistance are detailed for victims of hate crimes.
  2. Police Reporting and Legal Proceedings:

    • Victims can report harassment to the police, potentially leading to criminal charges.
    • Civil court action is an option, involving obtaining injunctions and seeking compensation for distress or alarm caused by harassment.
  3. Legal Advice:

    • Seeking legal advice is encouraged before pursuing court action, highlighting the importance of understanding available options and navigating the legal process effectively.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive guide for individuals facing harassment, covering a wide range of scenarios and legal avenues, with an emphasis on the Equality Act 2010 and associated legal rights.

Check what you can do about harassment (2024)


How would you deal with harassment? ›

5 ways to deal with harassment
  1. Don't engage. The harasser is looking to press buttons. ...
  2. Create distance. Remove them from your network. ...
  3. Self-reflect on why you're the target. Understand what it is you're doing that attracted this person. ...
  4. Protect yourself. Offer no space for harassment. ...
  5. Don't make excuses for a harasser.
Jul 19, 2022

How do you handle a case of harassment? ›

Harassment Investigation Procedures
  1. Keep thorough documentation of every step of the process.
  2. Look for opportunities to corroborate or contradict the allegation.
  3. Maintain confidentiality of all parties as much as possible.
  4. Stay neutral.

What are the best thing a person who is being harassed can do about it? ›

Start by telling the person that you don't like the behavior and asking them to stop. If the harassment doesn't let up, take measures such as involving the police and increasing your security. In some circ*mstances, you might need to file for a restraining order to keep your harasser away.

How do you respond to harass? ›

Look them in the eye and denounce their behavior with a strong, clear voice. Many people prefer to name the behavior. For example, you can say, “Do not [whatever they're doing]; that's harassment.” You can also simply say “that is not okay” or “don't speak to me like that.” Say what feels natural to you.

How do you prove psychological harassment? ›

In order for behavior to meet the standards of harassment, it must:
  1. Involve discrimination against a protected class of people. ...
  2. Involve offensive conduct. ...
  3. Include unwelcome behavior. ...
  4. Involve some level of severity or pervasiveness that affects your ability to work.

What should happen if a harassment complaint is made? ›

Once your employer knows that you are being harassed, it has a responsibility to correct the situation and protect you from further harassment. Your employer should promptly and thoroughly investigate your claim. This may mean that your employer will interview you, the harasser, and any other witnesses.

What is not a form of verbal harassment? ›

Some common examples of non-verbal harassment include staring or gawking, sending unsolicited pictures, and unwanted physical touch. Non-verbal harassment is a very prevalent form of harassment. One of the biggest concerns is the subtle nature of non-verbal harassment. It can usually go unnoticed.

Who are the most common victims of harassment? ›

Women are the most common, but not the only, targets for sexual harassment. There are basic patterns for sexual harassment, but those patterns do not capture the variations in experience by different groups of people and by workers in different sectors.

Is yelling at someone in public harassment? ›

Threatening you or your property, yelling, and using insulting or offensive language can all qualify as verbal harassment. In general, harassment refers to repeated behavior rather than a passing remark.

What can the police do about harassing texts? ›

In cases where the police determine that intervention is necessary, they may request telephone records from mobile phone companies to trace the source of the harassing texts and reveal the identity of the antagonist. However, obtaining these records typically requires legal permission, and the process can take time.

What is a good sentence for harassment? ›

His behaviour may be harassment. He was taken ashore and led away by officers to be questioned over behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Should you respond to someone harassing you? ›

While studies show that responding to harassers can help reduce trauma, we understand that this can be exhausting and it's okay for you to say “it's not worth it”. You don't have to engage if you don't want to or if it's becoming overwhelming. It's perfectly okay to step away and ignore the abuse.

What is harassment and what is not? ›

By law, harassment is unwelcome behavior based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. An action doesn't have to be illegal in order for it to be harassment. Harassment is any behavior that creates a hostile work environment.

What is the first step to follow in case of harassment? ›

The first stage involves understanding what you are going through, collecting information about possible actions and defining your options. Personal action: the complainant, either personally or through a third party, clearly indicates to the alleged harasser that certain behaviour is unacceptable.

What are the 4 steps a person should take when reporting a case of harassment? ›

Here are four steps you should take when reporting workplace sexual misconduct:
  • If You Feel Safe, Tell the Perpetrator(s) to Stop. ...
  • Document and Record the Sexual Harassment. ...
  • Submit a Complaint to Your Supervisor or HR Department. ...
  • Consult With an Experienced Employment Law Attorney.
Aug 30, 2023

What makes a strong harassment case? ›

It can even include offensive or discriminatory language about your sex or gender. Typically, if you hope to have a successful harassment lawsuit, the harassment must be so consistent or severe enough that any reasonable individual would consider it intentionally hostile or abusive in nature.

What is the first step of handling any workplace harassment? ›

The first step is likely the most difficult. If you feel safe, you should confront the person who has been harassing you about their behavior. In some cases, people don't realize that they are behaving offensively. Talking to the person who is harassing you might be enough to resolve the problem.


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