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Bullies have historically managed to remain under the radar because often, victims are hesitant about coming forward. Think back to the school yard bully in third grade. This kid was the loudest, boisterous and aggressive kid in the class, yet aside from the ocassional reprimand from the teacher, he was allowed to wreak havoc unchecked because everyone was afraid of him. A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and LawCrossing.com founder, says the same principle applies to the adult bully. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of sharing office space on the job with one of these aggressive folks, you know how exhausting and stressful it can be. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
Employers usually cover on the job bullying through its human resources departments and more times than not, provides the specifics via the employee handbook. Bullying is generally defined as the persistent and ongoing ill treatment of a person that victimizes, humiliates, undermines or threatens a worker. And, like the school yard bully, workplace bullies thrive on the fact they’ve instilled a level of fear that will protect them. A. Harrison Barnes says more companies are becoming more aware of this kind of on the job harassment and are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t affect those on their payrolls.
Some companies address bullying in their harassment, vilification, discrimination and even sexual harassment clauses. Regardless of how it’s categorized, it’s illegal and any employer that knowingly allows it to continue risks lawsuits by employees. Some employers are now grouping malicious gossiping into their bullying guidelines. The bottom line, says the LawCrossing.com founder, is that it’s as illegal as bringing street drugs onto your employee’s property.
If an employee feels he’s being bullied, Barnes recommends going to your manager. Be specific and detailed as possible. From there, your manager should open an investigation or even some employers have guidelines that require very specific procedures be followed. Regardless, measures should be in place that not only stop the bullying, but also not make it difficult for you to report to work each day out of fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, finding a resolution sometimes calls for legal action.
There’s been an increase of lawsuits filed by those who experienced bullying on the job and received no protection from their employers. Barnes says these numbers are expected to continue to climb as more bullies get away with their bad behavior. Some legal experts say the trend won’t stop until enough legalities are in place to serve as strong incentives to put into place very definitive guidelines and strong repercussions for those who believe bullying is acceptable. “We all go to work each day with one goal – to do the best job we can for our employer and to earn a living that allows us to put our kids through school, pay our mortgages and plan for those golden retirement days. There’s no room for bullying in the workplace”, says Barnes. Sadly, some employees find themselves fighting a battle on their own until they seek legal representation.