“Workplace bullying” is a term that has been coined recently to describe certain forms of unacceptable behavior in the workplace. It usually involves verbal misconduct such as teasing or name-calling. Workplace bullying is usually associated with harassment claims.
Workplace bullying may occur between employees, or between an employer and their employee. In situations, the “bully” is often an employer or supervisor who misuses their authority to obtain personal gain from co-worker of lower rank.
Workplace bullying can take many forms, but most claims involve one or more of the following types of behavior:
- Any form of teasing, name-calling, degrading, taunting
- The use of threats, intimidation, or other behavior
- Using one’s position to obtain favors, etc.
- Taking advantage of a person’s fear of reporting misconduct (as in, “If you report this, I will fire you”)
One of the main problems with workplace bullying is that it often goes unreported over long periods of time. This is because many employees do not want to risk losing their job on account of reporting incidents of bullying. However, it is important that you inform your employer or HR department if the bullying creates problems in your workplace.
Some legal remedies for workplace bullying may include:
- Having the “bully” reprimanded or disciplined for their actions
- Recovering damages for emotional distress
- Requiring the employer to institute new company policies
- If the bullying has caused a loss of job or lost wages, you may be able to get your job back, plus back pay
Workplace bullying is most often filed as a harassment claim, especially if the bullying involves sexual harassment. Also, it may be possible to file the claim under anti-discrimination laws. Employment discrimination issues may come into play if the bullying is aimed at the person’s membership in a protected category (i.e., race, age, sex, etc.). Finally, workplace bullying can also be included in a lawsuit for hostile work environment.
Workplace bullying is definitely a problem and should be reported promptly. If you need legal advice regarding bullying in the workplace, you may wish to present your case to an experienced employment lawyer. Your attorney can provide you with valuable input and can represent you if a lawsuit becomes necessary. You may wish to document any incidents and witness accounts in a written report.