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Is workplace bullying illegal?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2023 | workplace discrimination |

While it might seem like a problem relegated to kids and teens, bullying can also take place at work. In this case, you might wonder whether the problem rises to the level of harassment, which is illegal.

While workplace bullying causes many ill effects, it is not always the same as harassment. Here are a few key facts to consider if you experience bad treatment at work.

Difference between bullying and harassment

Some workplaces are unpleasant for all staff, regardless of their unique personal characteristics. For example, a supervisor may speak to workers disrespectfully or hold them to impossible standards without offering the right level of support.

As bad as these situations might feel, they do not always constitute harassment. According to the law, harassment features abusive behaviors that focus on certain characteristics. These characteristics include things like a person’s skin color, sex, or religion, among many others. Title VII establishes laws that protect certain characteristics, which means that employers are not allowed to treat their staff differently based on those protected characteristics.

How to identify a hostile work environment

The first step is to consider whether abuse and harassment stem from a protected personal characteristic. For example, a female staff member could claim a hostile work environment if their treatment varies from that of males in the workplace. The same goes for a person who receives different treatment due to racial or ethnic characteristics.

Additionally, some situations make for a stronger case when it comes to workplace harassment. This includes bad behavior coming from supervisors or management. In the same token, physical abuse and harassment of an individual creates an extremely hostile environment and is quite serious as a result.