Biz Rules: Workplace Bullying

Biz(941) looks at workplace bullying: what it is, who it affects and what you can do as a victim.

By Chelsey Lucas August 28, 2014

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WORKPLACE BULLYING affects as many as 35 percent of employees in the U.S., according to a recent study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, and is more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination. The organization defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment” and as “abusive conduct… which prevents work from getting done.” The institute found that 62 percent of workplace bullies are men and 38 percent are women.

The reason it persists?

According to Sarasota employment discrimination attorney Natashia Hines of Lancaster & Eure, P.A., no laws exist to prohibit such misconduct or protect victims. Still, Hines says workplace bullying can be handled.

“Document, document, document,” she says. As the plaintiff, the burden of proof falls on you. Any incident should be written down and safely stored for access in case of employment termination. Because these cases can take up to two and a half years, it is crucial to keep detailed notes in the event that there is a trial.

She also advises reviewing your company’s employee handbook when you decide to take action. Cases are subject to dismissal if protocol in the handbook is not followed as outlined. Generally, businesses require internal action through human resources before an employee can take legal action.

If filing a claim, contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations in Sarasota County and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the closest office is in Tampa.

Victims are frequently afraid of the potential repercussions of reporting their bullies, so incidents often go unreported. So, Hines says, “I always tell a new client: ‘Congratulations, you took a stand.’”

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