Can Anything Be Done Legally About a Workplace Bully?
So, can anything be done legally about a workplace bully? I have asked this question many times when confronting my own workplace bully issues. The simple answer is that it depends on where you live. I am saddened to say that there are no laws to date in the United States. Here is some research I have found about the legalities of dealing with a workplace bully.
“Bullying is the sexual harassment of 20 years ago: Everybody knows about it, but nobody wants to admit it.” — Louis L. Maltby, President, National WorkRights Institute
Since 2003, there have been several state legislatures have considered bills on workplace bullying. Since 2009, there are 16 states that have proposed legislation. Those states are:
- Nevada (in 2009)
- Illinois (in 2009)
- Utah (in 2009)
- New Jersey (in 2007)
- Washington (in 2007 and 2005)
- New York (in 2006)
- Vermont (in 2007)
- Oregon (in 2007 and 2005)
- Montana (in 2007)
- Connecticut (in 2007)
- Hawaii (in 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004)
- Oklahoma (in 2007, 2004)
- Kansas (in 2006)
- Missouri (in 2006)
- Massachusetts (in 2005)
- California (in 2003)
Many of the proposed bills are based upon the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill. This basically would allow an employee to sue for harassment without requiring a showing of discrimination. It should be noted that bullying does not, in and of itself, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or for that matter any other anti-discrimination laws. At this point in time, an employee can sue an employer for harassment if they are in a protected category such as race, sex, religion, or national origin, but if not, suing for being bullying is not possible. The various legislative proposals would allow a victim of bullying to sue their employer for creating an “abusive work environment” with the idea that the law against bullying would be necessary to protect public health.
It should be noted, however, that even with the lack of any federal or state laws specifically addressing workplace bullying, there have been some targets/victims of bullying that have prevailed in lawsuits when they allege an alternative theory such as intentional infliction of emotion distress and assault.
The reality is at this point in time that the United States is falling farther behind other western democracies in addressing the huge problem of workplace bullying whereas other countries have acted decades ago to protect their workers from being bullied.
You can read more information about the Healthy Workplace Bill here.
So let’s look at some other countries that have laws against being bullied at work.
Each Australian state has its own legislation. From my research, Queensland and Victoria have legislation on “Workplace Harassment” which states that if there is workplace harassment that endangers a worker’s health causing stress or any other physical harm, an employer can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work.
Quebec has passed legislation on workplace bullying and in their law “psychological harassment” is prohibited. In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1979 has been amended to include the protection of employees from psychological harassment, workplace violence, including domestic violence in the workplace. Under the act, workplace violence is defined as “. . .the attempted or actual exercise of any intentional physical force that causes or may cause physical injury to a worker. It also includes any threats which give a worker reasonable grounds to believe he or she is at risk of physical injury.” Saskatchewan made workplace bullying illegal in 2007. Manitoba has also enacted a bill making bullying illegal.
Ireland has a Code of Practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of workplace bullying. This Code notes the provision in the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 requiring employers to manage work activities to prevent improper conduct or behavior at work. It provides both employer and employee with the means and the machinery to identify and to stamp out bullying in the workplace in a way which benefits everyone.
The public administration in Spain requires that activities such as preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding, if permanent and for a long time, are to be considered labor harassment and have to be prosecuted.
Sweden covers workplace bullying by the Ordinance of the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health which contains provisions on measures against victimization at work. It defines victimization as “. . .recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace community.”
Bullying is not specifically mentioned in workplace legislation, however, there are ways to obtain legal redress for bullying. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a recent additi9on to the more traditional approaches using employment-only legislation. Bullying also breaches other United Kingdom laws. An implied term of every employment contract is that parties to the contract have a legal duty of trust and confidence to each other. Bullying, or an employer who tolerates bullying behavior, typically breaches that contractual term.
People can take legal action if a specific action of workplace bullying is violating an existing law or if it is recognized that the person who is bullied suffers an industrial accident, but generally it is hard to confirm whether it is illegal or not. The courts have said that if a laborer received treatment due to workplace bullying, it is an industrial accident and the person can take legal action.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We as a society need to treat bullying in the workplace as a health and safety issue. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” As you know, I have published other posts on the overwhelming evidence that shows workplace bullying poses a serious risk to the health and safety of workers. You can read one here.
Although I am still in the situation of dealing with a workplace bully and do not yet have the financial means to leave the job, I am looking at alternatives such as Wealthy Affiliate. You might want to look into an alternative if you too are being bullied.
As for the physical stress that bullying can cause an individual, I have found that CBD Oil have been a tremendous help. See my article on health problems associated with bullying here. I have been amazed at how much the CBD Oil has helped me and I am confident that it can help you too.
If you are experiencing a workplace bully and need to vent, I would really like to hear from you. I am here to help in any way that I can, so please leave a comment below or email me. Together we can get through this!