Bullying in the Workforce

Frank S. Clowney III

In California, a proposed law aims to stop harassment and bullying behaviors in the workplace. It seeks to prevent managers from berating their subordinates and creating hostile work environments. Unlike other legislation that protects certain subsections of the population, such as minorities and women, this legislation aims to provide a greater level of protection to all employees.

One of the goals of the new legislation is to encourage managers and business owners to take a moment and consider how their actions might be harmful to their employees. People across the area hope that it will lead people to fill their supervisory duties without being abusive to the people they manage. Opponents of the bill worry that it will lead to a wave of petty lawsuits if employees who are being held to high standards and feel that they are being treated unfairly. In addition, critics point out that what may be defined as a disciplinarian by one party can be considered a bully by another.

The bill provides specific guidelines for defining bullying, including verbal use, making derogatory remarks, insulting working or behaving in any manner that a person might find physically threatening or humiliating. A single event will not constitute abuse, but a pattern of behavior might. The law is not specifically geared to managers, either. Peers can also be guilty of bullying if they engage in this behavior with one another.

Employees are at risk for depression, poor job performance and other problems if they feel that they are trapped in a hostile work environment. Rather than risking their own health and livelihood by trying to ignore the situation, employees may be able to turn to attorneys for advice and guidance. There may be legal steps that can be taken under existing employment law to bring about an improvement in the situation.

Source: U-T San Diego, “State to workplace bullies: knock it off“, Jonathan Horn, November 02, 2014