Bullying is the use of intimidation to achieve a state of dominance over another individual. Bullying may involve conduct including:
- Aggressive or offensive behavior; and
- Actual physical abuse.
In the majority of instances, bullying involves a pattern of cyclical and repeated interactions between a victim and the bully. Bullying may also be based upon:
- Work employment harassment; and
- Other factors.
Is Bullying the Same as Harassment?
Although bullying is similar to harassment, it is not the same. Although harassment also includes unwanted behavior, it usually involves milder conduct which is more offensive than it is coercive.
In cases involving bullying, there are often elements of dominance and persuasion which occur. In the majority of cases, a bully is behaving in this manner because they wish to accomplish some goal.
For example, bullying may occur because an individual wants the victim to do something for them, for example, finish a project for them or they will tell co-workers some embarrassing story about the victim. Typically, harassment does not have these types of aims and, in some cases, is just an overall atmosphere of inappropriateness.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
As an employee, an individual should be able to perform their job duties in a healthy work environment. Many employees, however, suffer in hostile work environments, which severely impact their ability to perform their job duties.
Hostile work environments are created when an individual in the workplace engages in harassment which makes it impossible for employees to perform their job duties.
This form of harassment typically includes unwelcome conduct or comments based on:
- Sex, including pregnancy;
- National origin;
- Age, if the individual is 40 years old or older;
- Genetic information; or
- Other legally protected characteristics which may unreasonably interfere with the employee’s work performance.
Hostile work environments may be created by:
- Supervisors or managers;
- Repeat clients;
- Contractors; or
- Other employment staff who have significant contact with employees.
It is important to be aware that not every single isolated incident, petty slight, or annoyance will cause the work environment to rise to the level of a hostile work environment. If, however, an employee has been subject to offensive and unwelcome conduct which has affected their employment, they may be able to sue their employer for harassment or for hostile work environment.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying is a recently coined term which is used to describe certain forms of behavior which is unacceptable in the workplace. It typically involves verbal misconduct such as name-calling or teasing.
Workplace bullying is often included in harassment claims. Workplace bullying can take place between employees or between the employer and an employee.
In many cases, the bully is an employer or supervisor who uses their authority in order to obtain personal gain from a coworker of lower rank. Workplace bullying may occur in many different ways but typically involves one or more of the following:
- Any form of teasing, name-calling, degrading, or taunting;
- The use of threats, intimidation, or other behavior;
- Using one’s position to obtain favors; and
- Taking advantage of an individual’s fear of reporting misconduct, for example, if they report the behavior, the employer will fire them.
What is Mobbing in the Workplace?
Mobbing in the workplace is a more intense type of bullying. It is more intense because it is collective bullying, or bullying by numerous colleagues, superiors, and, in certain instances, subordinates of the individual who is the victim of the bullying.
This type of bullying may occur by the use of intimidation, gossip, and may amount to harassment as it is legally defined. Usually, the ultimate goal of the individuals who are engaging in the mobbing is to remove the victim from their workplace.
What are Some Examples of Workplace Mobbing?
There are many examples of bullying and mobbing, which include, but are not limited to:
- Rumors and gossip, which are both used to discredit the victim and to make the workplace uncomfortable;
- Collectively creating deliberately embarrassing and humiliating situations which target the victim;
- Innuendo. This occurs when mobbers create a harassing atmosphere to make the workplace so uncomfortable that the victim is required to remove themselves;
- Isolation occurs when a victim becomes so isolated that they are unable to communicate with their coworkers, and even fear them which makes the workplace become intolerable;
- This may include refusals to provide job assistance to the victim; and
- Harassment or discrimination, as it is legally defined.
What are Some Areas of Law That Cover Discrimination and Harassment Claims?
Harassment and discrimination are two types of claims which frequently arise in relation to a work environment. These two terms may refer to a broad range of conduct and, therefore, may arise in many different kinds of workplace scenarios.
What is Employment Discrimination?
As previously noted, employment discrimination claims may cover a wide variety of topics. Employment discrimination can be based upon an individual’s:
- Religion; or
Employment discrimination lawsuits may be pursued under state or federal laws. One of the most significant laws which applies to these types of claims includes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or Title VII.
For more information regarding laws which may apply in employment discrimination lawsuits, please refer to the following articles:
- Defining Employment Discrimination;
- Federal Employment Discrimination Claims;
- Employment Discrimination and Employer Retaliation; and
- Federal Caps on Employment Discrimination Damages.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is another issue which individuals may encounter in the workplace. For more information on sexual harassment, please refer to the following articles:
- Behavior Considered Sexual Harassment;
- Different Types of Sexual Harassment;
- Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment; and
- Rights of Employers Accused of Sexual Harassment.
Are There Any Legal Consequences for Mobbing in the Workplace?
Yes, there may be legal consequences for mobbing in the workplace. One consequence that is likely to occur is an internal investigation by the employer, which includes meeting with superiors and individuals from the human resources department.
There may also be other internal disciplinary procedures which must be followed. In some instances, a court may require an employer to rewrite their policies and procedures in order to be more effective in the future at preventing workplace bullying and providing recourse options for individuals.
Victims may also be able to file lawsuits against the bullies. The result of a lawsuit may include requiring the bullying parties to reimburse the victim for their losses.
This may include costs such as:
- Lost wages;
- The cost of therapy; and
- Legal fees.
In addition, if a victim had resigned or was wrongfully terminated, a legal claim may provide them with the opportunity to return to their previous employment position which they were in prior to the harassment occurring. Because a lawsuit will most likely name the employer, any employees who were a part of the mobbing activities will likely face serious consequences, such as termination.
Employee termination in these situations would not be considered wrongful because mobbing is typically expressly banned in employee handbooks.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Mobbing in the Workplace Claims?
It is important to have the assistance of a workplace lawyer for help with any mobbing in the workplace issues you may be facing. Your lawyer can advise you what recourses are available against the individuals bullying you as well as determining if discrimination or harassment occurred.
This is especially important if you have been wrongfully terminated from the job at which you faced the mobbing. Your lawyer can assist you with filing a lawsuit and represent you in court.