Bullying can be defined as using intimidation to achieve a state of dominance of another individual. Bullying may involve actions including:

  • Threats;
  • Force;
  • Coercion;
  • Aggressive or offensive behavior; and
  • Actual physical abuse.

In the majority of cases, bullying will involve a pattern of repeated interactions between the victim and the bully. Bullying may be based upon:

  • Discrimination;
  • Racism;
  • Ageism;
  • Work employment harassment; or
  • Other factors.

Is Bullying the Same as Harassment?

Bullying may seem similar to harassment but it is not the same. Although harassment may involve unwanted behaviors as well, it typically involves milder conduct which is more offensive than it is coercive.

In situations of bullying, there is an element of dominance and persuasion occurring. In the majority of cases, the bully is behaving in the manner they are because they desire to accomplish a certain goal.

For example, bullying may occur if an individual wants the victim to do something for them. For example, a bully may threaten that if the victim does not complete their work for them, the bully will share an embarrassing story about the victim with everyone in the office.

In most cases, harassment does not involve those types of aims and is more of an overall atmosphere of inappropriateness.

What is Bullying in the Workplace?

Bullying is typically engaged in in order to place another individual in a position of subordination or fear. Bullying can occur in many different locations, including at work or at school.

Bullying which occurs in the workplace may lead to various employment or legal issues. It is important to note that bullying laws may be relatively new, depending upon the location.

Additionally, the laws governing bullying may vary by state. Workplace bullying is a term that has recently been created to describe certain behaviors which are not acceptable in the workplace.

In many cases, workplace bullying involves verbal misconduct, which may include teasing and name-calling. It is often associated with harassment claims.

Workplace bullying can occur between employees or between an employer and an employee. In many instances, the bully is a supervisor or an employer who is abusing their authority in order to obtain some form of personal gain from a coworker of a lower rank.

What Are Some Examples of Bullying in the Workplace?

Workplace bullying usually involves one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Any form of:
    • teasing;
    • name-calling;
    • degrading; or
    • taunting;
  • The use of:
    • threats;
    • intimidation; or
    • other behaviors;
  • Using an individual’s position to obtain favors, or other things; and
  • Taking advantage of an individual’s fear of reporting misconduct, for example, if an employee reports this, the bully will fire them.

In contrast, bullying is often used in order to accomplish some specific purpose. Examples of behaviors that may be considered bullying include, but are not limited to:

  • Using threats in order to gain a higher position or a better advantage over a coworker;
  • Threatening to reveal confidential information about a co-worker unless they perform a task, which may also be referred to as blackmail;
  • Presenting an overall demeanor of intimidation;
  • Campaigning with other co-workers in order to present the victim in a negative light; and
  • Coercing a co-worker into doing more work.

In many cases, bullying will overlap with other types of legal claims, which may include discrimination or sexual harassment claims.

What is School Bullying?

School bullying specifically includes aggressive behaviors which are meant to do the following to another student:

  • Threaten;
  • Frighten; or
  • Hurt.

Examples of behaviors which may constitute school bullying include, but are not limited to:

  • Waiting for another student to enter into a certain area of the school in order to intimidate them;
  • Using threats or aggression to steal belongings or money from another student;
  • Forcing another student to provide test answers or to do homework for the bully; and
  • Physically attacking another student.

School bullying may involve various issues, including physical acts of violence and emotionally or mentally abusive speech or written messages. It is common for several students to gang up on one selected student.

Bullying in schools is being taken more seriously in recent years partially due to cases where students commit suicide after being bullied. Due to these issues, many local jurisdictions and states have begun to enforce anti-bullying statutes.

Workplace bullying laws and school bullying laws are similar. All 50 states have some form of an anti-bullying statute, although they can differ from state to state.

Examples of federal school bullying laws include:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
  • Both Title II and Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If an individual has any issues, questions, or concerns related to school bullying, it may be helpful to consult with a government lawyer.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying occurs when an individual uses electronic media to perpetuate bullying behaviors. This may include:

  • Using email threats;
  • Disclosing private photos; and
  • Posting information on social media websites.

In a work environment, this may be very revealing for a victim because there is a potential for an entire office to be exposed to the material without the victim’s knowledge.

Can Schools be Held Liable for Cyber Bullying?

Cyberbullying is becoming more common among school age children. It refers to an individual using technology to do any of the following to another individual:

  • Threaten;
  • Intimidate;
  • Harm; or
  • Harass.

This usually occurs during interactions over cell phones, including:

  • Texting;
  • Photo sharing; and
  • Other apps.

Cyber bullying also occurs on interactive Internet sites and social media platforms. This type of bullying behavior is typically persistent and repetitive and is, of course, damaging to the individual who is being bullied.

Common examples of cyberbullying actions include:

  • Spreading rumors or lies;
  • Posting or sharing inappropriate, disturbing, or offensive pictures of someone else without their consent;
  • Threatening to hurt someone; and
  • Stalking.

It is important to note that cyberbullying may happen at any time, either when a student is at school or if they are away from school. This means that although students may be involved in cyberbullying, it may be difficult to hold a school liable for damages or injuries which are caused by cyberbullying.

This applies especially when the bullying occurs outside of school hours. A school, in general, has no control over the conduct of students online.

Schools also do not owe students any duty to regulate their online interactions.

Are There Any Consequences to Bullying?

Similar to a hostile work environment claim, a claim of bullying may lead to a number of consequences. For example, the culprit may face termination from their position.

A civil lawsuit may also result, requiring the defendant to pay damages to the victim. Criminal charges may be involved, especially if an actual assault occurred.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Bullying Laws?

Bullying is a phenomenon that is becoming more common and may occur in many different environments. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to workplace bullying, it may be helpful to consult with a discrimination lawyer.

Your lawyer can advise you regarding your state laws as well as your rights. In addition, your lawyer will be present and represent you during any meetings or court hearings.