Bullying is something most of us have to deal with as children, either on the playground or in grade school. Some might argue that bullying builds character and prepares you for the “real world” and all of its injustices. That may be so, but what happens when bullying continues long after you have graduated from high school or college? Most bullies outgrow such tendencies but others don’t, and unfortunately for the rest of the population, we sometimes have to live and work around adult bullies. Bullying at home can raise issues of domestic abuse. In the workplace, abuse or harassment by a bully can affect your livelihood. Your workplace bully doesn’t necessarily have to be your boss. Bullies come from all walks of life and target you as a victim simply because you are in their proximity. In other words, it’s not you, it’s them.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is abusive conduct in the form of verbal abuse, threats, humiliation, intimidation, or anything that interferes with your ability to get your work done. Being the victim of bullying in the workplace can have severe consequences for your health, finances and social life, even when you’re not at work. At present, there are no laws, federal or otherwise, that specifically target general workplace bullying.
However, you have legal recourse when the bullying violates anti-discrimination laws. Bullying and other harassment in the workplace can be illegal when it’s based on certain characteristics or personal traits. Federal law prohibits any workplace harassment based on the following:
- sex (including pregnancy)
- national origin
- age (40 or older)
State and local laws vary, but they may provide additional protection from workplace harassment based on the following:
- economic status
- intellectual abilities
- marital status
- sexual orientation
- gender identity.
If you are being victimized by a workplace bully, don’t stay silent. You will be worried there might be negative consequences of reporting the bully, but know that there are laws prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who report discrimination-based harassment. If you are unsure whether you have legal recourse, consult a local employment lawyer about your situation. Remember that nothing is worth your peace and sanity, and you should not have to suffer the indignity of workplace bullying.