Legal Implications Of Workplace Bullying

27 Jun 2017
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Workplace bullying is relatively common and it may cause people to feel threatened, upset and vulnerable. Bullying can be performed by people who are in the position of authority. Co-workers and even subordinates with personal power and strength may coerce through intimidation and fear. In many countries, any form of bullying in the workplace can be considered as serious offense and when proven, it could become the ground for dismissals due to gross misconducts. Based on workplace regulations, bullying can occur through physical, verbal and non verbal conducts. As an example, there should be no derogatory or inappropriate remarks about others’ performance, which may include sarcasm and shouting towards others. Intimidation and overbearing levels of supervision can also be considered as workplace bullying, while physical threats can be at higher level, resulting in immediate legal proceeding. The most common type of workplace bullying is when people at senior positions abuse their power and authority over their subordinates.

Employee’s performance could be the subject to reasonable and legitimate criticism. When performed properly, this action shouldn’t be seen as workplace bullying. Workplace regulations in any country should include prohibition against harassments to gender reassignment, disability, skin color, age, gender, religion, nationality and others. These regulations are aimed to make the workplace a safe and secure environment for any worker. It is often considered illegal to pursue courses of action that may amount to harassment. This regulation should cover any individual irrespective of their status, level or grade in the workplace. When dealing with workplace bullying, affected individuals may take informal steps. This may include approaching workplace bullies to determine whether this act can stop. This can be communicated verbally or through email. If the bullying act doesn’t stop and the bully refuses to comply, then the affected individuals could seek confidential advices from their human resources staff and immediate manager. The case will be stronger if recent communication with workplace bullies is recorded.

Formal legal steps can be taken if the extent of workplace bullying has become serious enough. Formal complaints can be made for appropriate committees or any related team within the organization. Written complaints should be detailed, which include relevant information, include the bully’s name, as well as date, time and nature of bullying. We may include the name of witnesses and possible actions that can be taken to prevent further bullying attempts. When bullying is performed by many people in the workplace, more drastic step must be taken, such as changing the working condition, such as duties and working hours, without putting employees at career disadvantage. It is important for investigators to be able to investigate the matter in a confidential and timely manner. The investigator should be neutral and able to carry out the task with enough expertise. The investigation process itself must be impartial and thorough. At the end, the final report should be submitted to the appropriate person, organization or agency. There should also be a possibility of appeal when the affected individuals aren’t satisfied with the overall outcome.

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