Anyone who has ever worked in a toxic environment knows that workplace bullying is very real. When you’re threatened, intimidated, or sabotaged in the workplace, the stress and anxiety can affect nearly every area of your life – following you home to interfere with your personal life and your relationships with your kids and other loved ones.
If you are a business owner, it is in your best interest to be aware of bullying in your place of business. This type of behavior is more common than you might think, and it is increasingly recognized as actionable under state and federal law.
Although numerous federal and state laws protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace, there are currently no laws that comprehensively address workplace bullying. California became the first state to sign workplace bullying legislation into law in January 2015, however, many employment law experts agree that the law lacks teeth and fails to provide any real remedies for plaintiffs.
Efforts to Pass Anti-bullying Legislation
Most people associate bullies with school playgrounds, but there is increasing recognition that many bullies never outgrow their mulish and inappropriate behavior. In 2014, Time reported that more than 25 percent of Americans polled said they had experienced bullying at work. The survey was performed by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an organization that actively lobbies lawmakers to pass anti-bullying laws at both the state and federal levels.
According to the Institute’s website, 29 states have introduced legislation based on the Health Workplace Bill, a proposed law drafted by a law professor and promoted by a network of grassroots lobbyists.
The Institute defines workplace bullying as any behavior that:
- Subjects a worker to verbal abuse
- Causes a worker to experience offensive behavior, including nonverbal behavior, that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Interferes with a worker’s ability to perform his or her job
These behaviors can have the immediate effect of stymieing someone’s career. In more intense situations, workplace bullying can actually cause a worker to suffer physical and emotional harm. Workers have reported depression, hypertension, PTSD, and even autoimmune disorders as a result of enduring bullying at work.
Remedies Available under Existing Laws
In the absence of specific workplace bullying laws, individuals who experience bullying in the workplace may have remedies under other state and federal laws. Federal and state laws prohibit anyone from “bullying” a person based on his or her race, gender, pregnancy, or disability.
Employees may also be able to find recourse under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII, or the Fair Labor Standards Act. Each case is unique, with specific facts and circumstances.
If you are a business owner concerned about bullying behavior among your employees, call to discuss your options. At Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C., we help businesses safeguard their bottom line and further their goals. Call today at (228) 374-2313.