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Bullying At Work
Analysis of Workplace Bullying -
By Latricia Wilson
Procedure Bullied Employees Can Take to Stop Harassment
Often times employees that experience bullying
at work feel powerless to stop the abuse.
They feel powerless because they do not know what
to do to stop such unwanted harassment. Many employees
that experience workplace bullying run away from the
problem instead of confronting and dealing with their
bully due to the environment the harassment is taking
place in. Bullied employees often find themselves
stressed out and they suffer in silence until they
This explosion can come in the form of a nervous
break down or a physical assault. In the end
the workplace bully just seeks out a new victim, while
the old one is sitting in an unemployment line somewhere
thinking about all the shoulda coulda wouldas. All of the shoulda coulda wouldas mean nothing when
an individual has been bullied out of their job. Workplace
bullies are control freaks, manipulative and are more
damaging to an individuals well being than school
Some bullies in the workplace have more power than
their victim due to their position held within the
company therefore these bullies can harass another
colleague without facing any consequences at all.
With bullying at work bullies typically have
more power than they would have in another setting; employees also have the power to stop workplace bullying.
Some tactics bullied employees can use to stop this
abuse is to:
a.) Inform the Coworker or Manager that is
being abusive that their comments or actions are offensive. By directly confronting the bully the victim will
automatically show the bully strength instead of the
perception of weakness, which may have caused the
victim to become a target in the first place.
b.) Confronting a bully at work tactfully
may not always help to resolve the problem. Depending upon the personality trait of the bully, bullies may become even
more aggressive after the victim has asked the bully
directly to stop. If a workplace bully
continues to harass an individual after the employee
has asked the colleague/manager to stop then the bullied
worker should seek help in resolving such unwanted
conflict with their human resources department. It
is always best to try to simply pull a colleague or
manager aside and tell them that their actions or
comments are offensive before reporting them to human
Sometimes individuals who engage in bullying at work
may have an obnoxious personality and may not realize
their actions are offensive in nature. By telling
someone that you feel uncomfortable by their comments
or actions you will be giving them an opportunity
to correct their behavior.
Extreme Measures Legal Action Media Attention
Bullying at Work: Legal Remedies
Another difference between generic bullying
and hostility directed at a protected class is the
availability of legal remedies. There are
laws set in place to deal with discrimination and
bullying of a protected class of individuals but there
are almost no laws that cover bullying at work.
If the behavior of a bully does not have a sexual,
racial or physical component , neither US, Canadian
or UK laws are set up to deal with incompetent or
a cruel supervisor bullying a subordinate. Even though
there are no laws to protect victims from bullying,
bullies cannot completely escape the long arm of the
In the United States there has been a growing
number of stress related workmen's compensation claims
and intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuits filed because of workplace bullying.
Workmen's compensation claims and Emotional distress
lawsuits can be effective in bringing about some justice
for victims of workplace bully abuse. Such claims
can also be very detrimental to an individual's employment
stability within a company and be a barrier for victims
when seeking employment.
Victims should keep in mind that taking action
can produce unpredictable or undesired consequences. Workmen's compensation claims and emotional distress
lawsuits are typically difficult cases to win when
filed based upon general bullying harrasment due to
lack of legislation to cover bullying at work.
Victims should also keep in mind that when taking
legal action it is important that the plaintiff have
evidence to substantiate their claims or witnesses
that can support alleged incidents. Without witnesses
or solid evidence bullied victims may have difficulty
proving their cases in court.
Workplace bullies can be difficult people
to legally reprimand due to the fact that
federal law does not prohibit teasing, offhand comments
or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious
(when considered individually rather than as a larger
pattern of abusive behavior. See Mobbing:
Death by a Thousand Cuts).
Rather, the conduct must be so objectively offensive
as to alter the conditions of the individuals employment.
Employment conditions are altered only if harrasment
culminates in tangible employment action or is sufficiently
severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment.
Although workplace bullying is inappropriate behavior
and causes severe and even debilitating stress to
victims of such abuse, it is not considered illegal
by United States legislation. Neither is bullying
at work easily recognized by the criminal or civil
court judicial systems as being a valid claim that
identifies clear legal and factual basis in which
a legal or equitable remedy can be ordered to the
Bullying at work has no serious legal or equitable
remedies typically because it is not recognized as
life threatening, or as a form of discrimination which
is harassment that can be sexual, racial or religiously
offensive in its nature. Workplace bullying
is not considered to be illegal unless the form of
harassment is acted out against legally protected
classes of people that directly violates
the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
other federal authority.
Bullying at Work: Media Attention
Therefore, bullied employees may need to
consider taking extreme measures to expose workplace
bullies and the companies that protect them if they are victims of outrageous harrasment such
as physical attacks, threats and public humiliation
tactics such as screaming and cursing.
Other outrageous behavior that are grounds for seeking
media attention are damaging and ruining personal
property. Media attention can be very helpful in forcing
a workplace bully's company to stop the harrasment.
Contacting local newstations should be the last an
final step taken after the victim has tried to resolve
the problem by seeking help from supervisors and human
resource departments (however unlikely). Many times
companies are neglectful and downright insensitive
to dealing with complaints about managers in their
Unfortunately, the way many companies deal
with workplace bullying is by terminating the victim
that complains about bullying at work, so
that the companies may not be forced to reprimand
or terminate a needed manager or employee that they
(falsely) believe are a greater asset to the company.
No company wants to have a negative perception of
their business by the public. Even if the company
has wrongfully terminated a bullied employee that
has complained the department heads more than likely
will reevaluate their actions, or at least get rid
of the workplace bully if the company itself is exposed
by the media.
Bullying at Work:
Outside Sources Bullied Victims Can Contact that Have
a Direct or Indirect Influence on Companies
Many victims of bullying at work are forced
to handle the conflict by getting out of the abusive
workplace environment which results in their
resigning or moving to another department in the company.
Victims of this type of abuse often lack knowledge
of sources that they can turn to that can be effective
at helping to resolve the conflict or at least investigate
claims of workplace bullying. Too often victims
are bullied repeadetly until they explode all becuase they were unaware that there are outside
sources that could help these individuals find justice.
Some outside sources that protect employees from
this kind of abuse are:
Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission is a
body set up to investigate and protect human rights
referred to as the "basic rights and freedoms"
to which all humans are entitled. Examples of human
rights and freedoms commonly thought to be human rights
are civil, politica lrights, rights to life and liberty,
freedom of expression and equality before law; and
social, cultural and economic rights, including the
right to work and the right to education.
Serial workplace bullies often find ways to harrass
surbordinates which violates human rights. These tactics
are acted out to drive the employee away or provoke
the employee to anger. Human rights laws provide
limited protection from bullying at work but only
for some people.
Some tactics that are considered as a violation to
human rights are:
Denying breaks such as restroom or meal breaks
to workers after 6 to 8 hrs of working.
Forcing employee take on a task that could cause
bodily harm to the indivdual.
Failing to pay an employee wages for hours or
In the United States each state has an independent
agency that is charged with preventing and eradicating
discrimination in employment.
Human rights claims must have an alleged basis within
a protected class. An employer or bully can be charged
with discrimination if they allow
some employees within the same rank to be accomadated
with certain neccessities needed to perform their
functions but deny another class of individuals the
same neccessitties within the same rank.
Protected classes of individuals are those of color,
sex, creed or disability.
Editor's Note: However,
in addition to the very narrow range of those protected
by Human Rights Commissions they are usually toothless,
lacking any real ability to enforce anything approaching
a fair resolution. Even winning a Human Rights Commission
claim will result in a token reprimand that is more
of an insult added to injury than compensation or
justice for those subjected to bullying at work.
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates
discriminatory practices on basis of race, color,
religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.
The EEOC is set up to deal with claims of harrassment,
which is a form of employment discrimination that
violates Title V11 of the Civil Rights Act
The Age Discrimination in employment Act
of 1967, (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act
Bullying at work is a form of harassment in which
is unwelcome conduct that the U.S Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission investigates when the inappropriate
conduct is based on a particular race, color, sex,
religion, national origin, disability or age.
According to the EEOC the harassment can be investigated
when an employee is experiencing harassment so severe
or pervasive that it creates a work environment that
a reasonable person would consider intimidating. The
offensive conduct may include but is not limited to,
offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, name-calling, physical
assaults, insults, or mockery.
Interference in an individual's work performance
is also considered offensive conduct. Bullying
at work can occur in a variety of circumstances, including,
but not limited to the following:
The harassment can be the victims supervisor,
a superior in another area, or an agent of the
employer, a co-worker, or another non-employee.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed
but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful harassment may occur without economic
injury to, or discharge of the victim.
Employer Liability for Harassment
The employer will be held liable for harassment by
non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom
it has control, if the employer knew or should have
known about the harassment and failed to take prompt
and appropriate corrective action.
Overview of US Policies
Only a handful of US employers have implemented
policies that address bullying at work, but
the issue remains silent and is kept under most company's
radar screens. Workplace bullying has been an economic
devastation to this country and a constant road block
to individual's career goals.
Although thousands of individuals are affected by
workplace bullying each day, very few people choose
to speak out or fight back when being harassed because
doing so can cost them their jobs, careers and financial
security. Because society as a whole remains
silent out of fear of economic isolation no federal
or state statutes have been set in place to ban workplace
bullying. Still efforts to curtail the problem
are gaining attention in a growing number of state
Even though federal legislation lacks the muscles
to deal with bullying at work, employers can
protect their employees against such conduct by strengthening
their workplace harassment policies and education
given to their staff by launching an official
meeting with all staff to discuss such policies.
There should be a written check list that
A strong statement of the organizations attitude
A clearly worded definition of discrimination
A statement that discrimination and harassment
on any of the grounds listed in the legislation
is against the law.
Circumstances where discrimination and harassment
A statement that everyone has a responsibility
to prevent workplace harassment, discrimination
Outside source contact information on how and
where to seek help if discrimination, harassment,
or bullying occurs. (Bigger companies can set
toll free numbers up in which victims can remain
anonymous.) This way the chances of being retaliated
against is reduced and the likelihood that the
company will deal with such conflict is magnified.
The likely consequences of unlawful discrimination
Companies can take steps to ensure that managers
and colleagues take bullying more seriously by
having mandatory training sessions for all new
hire managers about workplace bullying/harassment
and how this conduct affects the company itself
as well as employees.
Employees could have workplace bullying role
playing sessions in which colleagues would
act out various forms of negative, rude, silent, passive
body language to more aggressive behavior.
Employees should learn to identify what workplace
harassment is, and how silent, verbal or physically
offensive actions affect other colleagues whether
such actions are intentional or unintentional. Role
playing sessions will help employees become more consciously
aware of the way they interact with other people.
Employees that are exposed to role play bully sessions
will more than likely become more self conscious of
their own behavior in the workplace and in their personal
life as well. Employees that participate in role play
sessions will be less likely to harass another individual
in the workplace and more inclined to apologize and
take steps to correct their-own-perceived offensive
Bullying at Work:
Overview of Existing Legislation and
Pending Legislation in the US
Since 2003 13 states have introduced bills
that address bullying in the workplace. The
13 states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas,
Missouri, Massachusetts , Montana, New York, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and New Jersey.
Massachusetts is the 6th state to introduce anti-bullying
legislation in the U.S since 2003.
In 2009 Senate Bill 699 Sponsored By Senator
Joan Menard. This is the third attempt since 2004
in the state to address bullying through legislation.
It is called the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace
Montana is the 11th State to introduce ant-bullying
legislation in the U.S since 2003.
Illinois is the 15th state to introduce anti-bullying
legislation in the U.S since 2003. In 2009 House
Bill 374 by Representatives Turner, Lang, Harris
and Washington drafted a bill to address bullying
in a non-public sector.
Oklahoma is the 2nd State to introduce ant-bullying
legislation in the U.S since 2003.
The Bills introduced in the United States that included
general harassment language failed in several legislative
state committees. Legislators that sponsor or introduce
workplace bullying bills often struggle to get enough
committee members to vote in favor of passing bills
that address workplace bullying.
Although workplace bullying is hostile in
nature it is not perceived as discriminatory because
it does not violate a protected class of individuals. Legislators are often reluctant to pass workplace
bullying laws because federal legislation has not
been introduced and passed outlining what specifically
about workplace bullying behavior could be described
Bullying at Work: Advocacy
As more policy and law makers consider mandating
workplace bullying policies, more advocates
will be needed to speak on behalf of bullied employees. Individual advocates for bullied workers can help
raise public awareness about the issue by submitting
commentaries to their local newspaper editorial boards.
Other ways individual advocates can be effective
in getting legislation introduced to tackle
workplace bullying is by meeting with their local
state representatives and request being allowed to
make a presentation to legislative committees outlining
reasons why legislation should be introduced that
addresses workplace bullying.
Advocates with personal experiences of workplace
bully encounters can influence policy makers and legislators
greatly. Policy makers will listen and take
the issue more seriously when listening to an individual
that has personally experienced bullying at work.
Furthermore, individual advocates can get
numerous people to sign a petition “that
request that workplace bullying laws be introduced
with serious penalties for workplace bullies.”
Petitions with hundreds to thousands of constituent
signatures can be effective in influencing lawmakers
to take workplace bullying more seriously.
Organizational and Group Advocacy
Individual advocates can help to bring about awareness
and change when the right tactics are used. Organizations
and groups advocating together for change are often
taken more seriously and therefore have the
muscle to force policy makers to address workplace
Organizational advocates may have limited sources
of local departments in which to contact that have
the power to make changes to workplace bullying laws
and policies; but there are other national
departments that groups can contact that have the
power to address bullying at work. Organizations
can hold demonstrations outside these departments
or send letters to the department officials.
These departments are the:
States Department of Labor —
is a cabinet department of United States government
responsible for occupational safety, wage, and
hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits,
and some economic statistics.
United States Secretary of Labor — is head of Labor who exercises control
over the department and enforces and suggest laws
involving unions, the workplace and all other
issues involving any form of business controversies.
Federal Communication Commission, Office of Legislative
Affairs, Office of Workplace Diversity Department — advises the Commission on all issues related
to work force diversity, affirmative recruitment
and equal employment opportunity. This office
processes formal complaints alleging employment
discrimination on basis of race, color religion
sex, national origion, age, disability and sexual
Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor
Pensions — The Committee introduces
most labor and employment laws, including those
that regulate wages and hours of employment, enforce
mining, and workplace health and safety, combat
employment based discrimination, and laws that
regulate union management relations.
Organizations and groups working together
to tackle bullying at work can make a difference in
this most disturbing social issue. After
having held demonstrations, given presentations, or
submitting petitions to the local and state legislative
committees, workplace bullying law advocates should
repeat the same advocacy efforts before the national
departments listed above.
Organizations can also lobby or send a lobbyist team
to the United States Capitol to lobby for the introduction
and passage of workplace bully laws.
Bullying at Work: Viewpoint
Workplace bullying is immature, menacing
behavior that has somehow become part of
the workplace culture and accepted by many institutions
throughout the world.
The more business leaders and corporations
begin to recognize just how detrimental this type
of behavior can be to their business, the more resistant
workplace society will become of such harassment.
Unfortunately as long as humans feel the need to
control someone or some situation, bullying and abusive
behavior will continue at home, school and in workplace
When an individual feels that their social status
is being threatened they may resort to bullying at
work to drive away an individual or group that represents
a threat to them.
Just as animals mob a predator by attacking it to
protect their offspring; humans may attack others
in the workplace by socially and financially excluding
them to protect their own job positions or increase
their chances of advancing in a company (even
though targets of bullying at work are often more
competent and deserving).
Allthough there is no way to completely stop individuals
from preying on each other in the workplace, there
are ways individuals can collaborate together to prevent
bullying at work.
* Pending legislation as of June
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