In the workplace, mobbing refers to a group of colleagues who band together to harass, humiliate, intimidate, or bully a co-worker. The end goal of mobbing is to push the targeted employee out of the workplace. The target of mobbing behavior is often above average in performance and creativity which motivates other employees who feel threatened in their own positions, to bully those who excel. It is also common for a group to target someone who is unproductive or an outcast, and who cannot be terminated easily.
Individuals who are targeted will often feel “ganged up on.” Typically, there is a leader of the group, who can be a co-worker, manager, or subordinate. This leader will secretly rally others into acting-out towards the victim with mob-like behavior. Over time, the target may experience adverse effects and psychological trauma.
Mobbing can cause serious mental, physical, and emotional issues for the targeted individual. Common effects of mobbing include:
- Depression and sleeplessness
- Loss of focus or interest in work tasks
- Substandard performance
- Anxiety, emotional distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Resignation from position
Additionally, mobbing can have long-lasting effects on the success of a business. The disruption and divisiveness within a company not only decreases morale, but may also cost the business significant profit loss.
Currently, no U.S. state has passed an anti-bullying law for the workplace, though new legislation such as the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill may soon change this fact. Mobbing can, however, involve other offenses that may be actionable, such as discrimination and sexual harassment. The following are defenses that may be used against claims of participation in mobbing behavior:
- Plaintiff is making false accusations against the defendant;
- Mistaken identity;
- Lack of evidence;
- The defendant was not involved with the accused and was wrongly associated with those individuals; or
- There were no damages in the case. The plaintiff must be able to show damages in order to have a successful claim.
A common defense strategy is to counter the plaintiff by arguing there is not sufficient evidence present in the case. If the plaintiff cannot prove that there was any measurable level of loss or other harm suffered, it is possible that the defendant may not be held liable in a civil or criminal court.
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If you are experiencing any issues related to workplace mobbing, you should contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, assess your case, and provide guidance and representation throughout the process, both in and out of court.