Workplace Harassment: What to Do When Bullying Happens to You.
(ThyBlackMan.com) Relationships at work are incredibly important in most people’s lives. Problems in those relationships are second only to matrimonial disputes in terms of the unhappiness they cause. Most people can’t afford to just walk out of their jobs, either financially or emotionally. You may spend more time with your colleagues than your spouse, and many people’s whole identity and self-esteem depends on their work.
When an employee experiences bullying at work, the issue can come to dominate their thinking. It can grow into an obsession. It’s important for a victim of bullying or harassment to take action and assume some control of the situation.
Are You Being Bullied?
There are a lot of different types of behavior that can be thought of as bullying or harassment. How can you tell whether the behavior that’s making you unhappy should be classed as such? The chances are that if you are wondering about the question, then you are in fact being bullied to some degree.
Being subjected to jokes about your race, looks, gender or disability can easily amount to bullying. It’s important that, in this sort of situation, the victim makes it clear that the jokes are unwelcome. The law recognizes that a workplace where such jokes are repeated, after it’s clear they make the victim uncomfortable, can be a ‘hostile environment’ which can entitle a plaintiff to damages.
More subtle, but no less undermining, is work-related targeting. A worker can be singled out to be overloaded with work, denied support, criticized for performance, refused leave and overlooked for promotion. This is a sort of bullying too, if it’s based on criteria not related to performance.
Analyze the Situation: Keep an Incident Diary
You may have an impression that bad things happen to you all the time, but it’s vital to know how often they do, in fact, occur. If you intend to take action, whether by way of an internal complaint, or through the courts, it’s essential to get the facts as accurate as possible. There’s no substitute for accurate contemporaneous notes.
Why Are You Being Bullied?
There are laws that protect employees against discrimination on certain grounds. Broadly, those grounds are race, gender, disability and age. In some states there are additional protections, for example, in Texas religious discrimination is also outlawed. If bullying behavior is linked with a protected characteristic, then it could amount to actionable discrimination. If you think that’s the case for you, then you should take legal advice from an employment law specialist, like Texas firm, Loya and Associates.
If you feel that you are being treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic, you have to show that was what caused the bullying. Research can be key. Do other workers of your gender or race get treated equally with the rest of the workers in terms of employment, promotion and pay?
If you are being overworked and overlooked, because you are female, for example, then you need to look at the overall picture. If statistics show that for example, women are promoted within the organization to a lesser extent than men, then that will help your case in establishing gender discrimination.
Make a Complaint
An employer can’t be expected to be aware of bad behavior by your manager or colleagues if he or she doesn’t witness it, and isn’t told about it. A good employer will investigate complaints of bullying, and try to resolve the issue. If they fail to take a complaint seriously, and fail to investigate, you may have a legal remedy against the firm, depending on the reason for the bullying, and your contract of employment.
Be prepared for the fact that your complaint may not be upheld, and you may not have a remedy for the particular form of harassment you are experiencing. It may be something that’s hard to prove, or something that the law doesn’t regard as actionable.
Harassment in the workplace is a very emotional matter for the victim, but legally it’s a technical issue. That’s why it’s a good idea to get objective advice as early as possible. Many lawyers will offer an initial free diagnostic interview.
They will be able to advise whether your employer is in the wrong, legally speaking. If your lawyer advises that you haven’t got a legal case, and if you are in a job that can be terminated without cause, then ultimately, and sadly, you may have to plan to remove yourself from the situation by looking for a new job.
Staff Writer; Steve Hall