Bullying & Harassment at Work

Scroll down to read more!

Bullying & Harassment at Work

Scroll down to read more!

Table of Contents

In the #metoo movement, we are seeing more talk about what is bullying and what is harassment. Unfortunately, only one of these is against the law. Bullying, while not against the law, is still something that needs to be investigated and is behavior that needs to stop. However, many times, situations are identified as bullying when in fact those situations are more likely workplace harassment and should be dealt with as such.

I recently attended an excellent training on Title IX and the speaker spent a bit of time talking about harassment and bullying. Then I listened to the Hostile Work Environment Podcast and was struck at how often when someone is being a jerk, rather than calling it out, it is dismissed as “not illegal” so we do nothing. But as they discussed, while bullying may not be illegal, yet, this is behavior that still needs to be addressed.

What is Bullying?

So what is Bullying? It is the persistent, repeated, malicious, offensive, and intimidating behavior which humiliates degrades and displays a lack of dignity and respect for the target, resulting in them feeling vulnerable and threatened. Sounds a lot like workplace harassment, doesn’t it? The key difference is bullying is not done because of a protected class, perhaps this person is an equal opportunity bully. It is up to you, the HR professional conducting the investigation to determine if there is harassment or bullying and what the next steps should be.

In the United States, there are 10 federally protected classes: Race, Color, Religion or Creed, National origin or ancestry, sex, age, physical or mental disability, veteran status, genetic information, and citizenship. You will want to check your state and local regulations as many states have additional protections.

When Should HR Get Involved in Bullying at Work?

As an HR professional, you should be investigating every situation that might be harassment. Working through the complaint, you may come to the conclusion that the behavior is not directed at the individual due to a protected class. I would encourage you to review the case again, just to ensure you are correct. Many times, we are quick to dismiss behavior as bullying if we cannot immediately see a protected class. It is always good to take a closer look at the situation. Is this really a situation where the person is a jerk to everyone or do they only treat women or men or POC that way? You may need to do some digging and review past files to truly get to the heart of this. I think we as HR professionals need to do a better job of looking at an employee’s past behavior looking for patterns. You know an employment attorney will do that digging, so you want to be sure you are addressing any illegal behavior as soon as possible.

And what if you really do have an equal opportunity jerk on your hands? Just because it’s not illegal (so far), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address the behavior. We need to have a higher standard than “not illegal” when it comes to behavior in the workplace. You can start with your policies and procedures. Have you included language around behavior? Nordstorms instructs their employees to “Use Good Judgment in All Situations.” Perhaps you want to include examples of what this does or doesn’t look like to help your employees understand what you mean by “good judgment.”

Holding Your Employees Accountable for Bullying and Workplace Harassment

By defining this for your employees, it will make it easier for you to hold your employees accountable and you definitely need to hold your employees accountable for their behavior. Any violation of the behavior policy should be dealt with like any other policy violation. You need to be consistent.

Plaintiff attorneys are starting to look for different ways to use current laws to protect employees from bullying behavior: Simple assault and disorderly conduct are starting to get used, especially if there is a physical threat included in the bullying.

And while it should go without saying, you want to be sure you are not retaliating against the employee who is complaining. Again, even if the behavior is bullying and not harassment, you may fall into retaliation.

Legally, you might not have to do anything about bullying, but it is in your best interest to address the behavior to have a positive work environment.

Did you like this post? Share it!

One Comment

  1. Nice article to aware the people who are suffering this. Bullying can be in different subtle forms like invalid criticism, exclusion, false allegations, constant bantering, humiliation or unnecessary written warnings.

    The most vulnerable to this plight is the subordinates in offices. This is a scenario in private as well as public sector. Most of the bullying is done by seniors, hierarchy plays a key role. To achieve targets supervisors have to force the employees to labor hard especially the young workers have to face most of the harassment due to higher expectations. Bullying and harassment at workplace lead to a terrible effect on the health and well being and performance of the employees.

Comments are closed.

A Word From Our Sponsors

Ads help make Workology resources free for everyone. We respect your privacy. To see our Privacy Policy click here.

Recommended Posts

12 Types of Paid and Unpaid Leave and Time Off

A list for the HR professional to be able to answer employee questions related to time off....
Places to visit while in Chicago for the #SHRM13

Top 10 Must Sees in Chicago During #SHRM24

Must Sees in Chicago at the 2024 SHRM Annual Conference We’ve taken the stress out of planning and done all the work for you....

The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate On Social Media Policies and Disclaimers

5 Employee Twitter Bio Disclaimers You Should Add Today

Learn the top five Twitter (X) bio disclaimers every HR professional needs to protect personal and professional interests on social media....

How to Calculate FLSA Overtime Pay

Understand the Fair Labor Standards Act and learn how to calculate FLSA overtime pay to avoid any mistakes....
Discover the Best of Chicago

Top 10 Things to do in Chicago

Check out our free Yoga for HR class and take a break from #shrm24 at www.yogaforhr.com. Top 10 Things to do in Chicago Chicago...

Successful SHRM recertification

Your Path to Successful SHRM Recertification

Navigate your SHRM recertification journey with our guide. Uncover the process, benefits, and tips for successful career advancement in HR....

5 Effective Employee Training Methods for 2024

Is adapting quickly to market changes a priority for your company’s future? If so, it’s crucial to equip your workforce with the necessary knowledge...

Going Paperless: Transitioning to a PDF-Based Workflow for Enhanced Efficiency

Going Paperless: Transitioning to a PDF-Based Workflow for Enhanced Efficiency Every day, we juggle deadlines, manage information overload, and constantly seek ways to streamline...

Checkout Our Products

Ads help make Workology resources free for everyone. We respect your privacy. To see our Privacy Policy click here.

More From Workology

5 Effective Employee Training Methods for 2024

Click on read more to open this post on our blog.

HR Certification Podcast Episode 15: Reviewing Employment Law for HRCI & SHRM Exams

In this episode of the HR Certification Podcast, we review employment law topics including adverse impact and the four-fifths rule.
Yoga for HR

Breathe Out Chaos, Breathe In Peace: Yoga for HR

Check out our free, 30-minute "Yoga for HR" webinar and learn how to clear your mind of chaos and clutter through breathwork and stretching!

12 Types of Paid and Unpaid Leave and Time Off

A list for the HR professional to be able to answer employee questions related to time off.