Liz Duncan looks at the harm cause by serious abuse at work and how compensation may be available to victims
It has been said that a person’s employment is usually one of the most important things in his or her life. It gives not only a livelihood but an occupation, an identity and a sense of self-esteem. It is therefore no surprise that problems at work can impact on a person’s whole life, including their health and relationships. With a person’s sense of self so often bound up in their employment, especially for those with a particular vocation or profession that they have spent years working towards, when it all goes wrong people report feelings of shame, embarrassment, shock and betrayal.
The impact of bullying and violence in the workplace can be particularly damaging, as has been highlighted by the tragic story of 18 year old George Cheese who committed suicide following serious abuse at work. An Inquest has heard that George was subjected to repeated incidents of bullying in the 6 months that he worked for Audi, including his colleagues shutting him in a cage, dousing him with flammable liquid and setting him alight. George’s family report that from being “over the moon” to land the apprenticeship George soon began coming home covered in bruises and with holes burned into his clothes.
George had previously suffered problems with his mental health. When these problems became known in his work place he was regularly subjected to verbal bullying including colleagues telling him to take his “happy pills” as he was “going to need them”. George’s mother told the Inquest that he found the verbal abuse more difficult to bear than the physical assaults. She said when he had informed his boss about the bullying that he was suffering he had been told that they were “naughty boys” and that “I have told them about this”.
Peter Bedford, the Berkshire Coroner, was told that after the incident where George was shut in a cage his boss had laughed and walked away. George was waiting for his appointment with a counsellor when things seemed to become too much for him to bear. His father Keith Cheese told the Inquest that the evening before he died George had been pacing around the house saying, “I have to quit, I can’t go back there” again and again. George’s line manager, Simon Wright admitted that a number of “pranks” were played on George and said that he had been in the workshop when George was set on fire. He said that things were not taken too far, “we knew where to draw the line”. He denied that George was bullied and says that many of the behaviours to which he was subjected were things that happened to most apprentices.
The manager of the dealership did not deny that he had been present when George had been shut in the cage and set alight and that he had reacted by laughing and walking away. While it is tragically too late for George Cheese it is hoped that with this spotlight on the effects of abuse at work things will be better for future Audi apprentices, with employees now being allowed to file weekly appraisal forms about their superiors and the company arranging more team building exercises and promoting communication in the workplace.
If you have experienced abuse at work that has caused you to suffer a recognised psychiatric condition you may be entitled to bring a legal claim for compensation.
To make your claim all you have to do is give us a call or email us details of your case. We will assess the merits of your case free of charge and let you know whether we can help and if we can deal with it on a No Win, No Fee basis.
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