A lot has been written about bullying in schools. But, sometimes bullying may occur in the employment context as well.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), bullying in the workplace can take many forms including:
- Constant and unfair criticism.
- Excessive teasing.
- Yelling, shouting and screaming.
- Insults and behind-the-back put-downs.
- Hostile glares and other intimidating gestures.
- Malicious gossip.
- Monopolizing supplies and other resources.
- Aggressive e-mails or notes.
- Overt threats, aggression or violence.
Are there laws to prohibit this behavior?
In general – no. While bullying may be deemed unacceptable within an employer’s own culture and policies, the types of “bullying” behavior identified above would only be unlawful when it violates federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In other words, if any of these behaviors are specifically targeted against employees because of such things as their race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability, the bullying behavior crosses the line to unlawful behavior.
Regardless of whether bullying behavior may be unlawful, employers may want to monitor and address this type of behavior, so as to reduce the potential for increased stress levels for employees, adverse impact on productivity and increased employee turnover.
What can you as an employer do about workplace bullying?
The first thing to do is take a hard look at the culture of your company and workplace dynamics and determine how you want your managers and employees to interact and to train them about your expectations.Should bullying behavior occur in the workplace, it is best to appropriately redress the situation before the conduct may cross the line to unlawful behavior.
Remember, bullying that violates federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace can open an employer up to legal problems including what’s called a hostile work environment claim.
If you are an employer in Connecticut and need assistance in responding to complaints of bullying behavior in the workplace or determining if such behavior violates the law, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. Each of us have over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment and labor law and can help you with this complicated topic. Please contact us if we can help you.
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