According to experts at the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying in the workplace occurs at four times the rate that sexual harassment does in the American workforce. Many kinds of employment discrimination result in devastating physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims and bullying is no exception to this unfortunate reality. However, bullying in the workplace is a unique kind of discrimination partially because it is so difficult to understand from a legal perspective.
When an employer or co-worker discriminates against someone due to their gender, religion, race or other protected classification, the affected employee likely understands that such conduct is against the law. However, bullying can be inspired simply by the bully's insecurities or self-importance and may not be directed at a protected classification. This conduct then leaves victims and co-workers wondering whether or not the law protects victims from such behavior.
Partially as a result of this confusion, co-workers intervene in less than one percent of bullying incidents in the workplace, according to the Institute. The director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School estimates that between 33 and 60 percent of American workers experience workplace bullying at one point or another. Yet, only a small fraction of these incidents are ever reported, let alone given a voice in court.
A number of federal and state laws contain either broad or explicit protections against bullying in the workplace. If you, a co-worker or someone you care about is being bullied at work, do not hesitate to contact an experienced employment attorney. You can then use experienced counsel to guide you through your legal options and help you prevent this kind of behavior from being tolerated in the future.
Source: Main St, "This Workplace Offense is More Common than Sexual Harassment," Susan Kreimer, Aug. 7, 2013