Is it Workplace Bullying or Workplace Harassment? How to Tell the Difference

Workplace bullying is not necessarily illegal.  It is offensive, annoying, abusive, and hurtful.  However, in order for workplace bullying to be to be identified as illegal harassment, it must meet a different set of criteria.  Workplace harassment is but one kind of discrimination in the workplace that is illegal.  In order for bullying to be classified as harassment, the harmed party must be included in one or more  protected classes.  The charged infractions must also be severe enough to negatively affect the status of the harmed party’s employment.  Protected classes inclue individuals who experience workplace bullying based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, national origin, disability or military status. 

Workplace abuse is also different from retaliation. Retaliation is defined as a type of discrimination that occurs when a harmed party has filed a complaint of harassment or illegal discrimination against an employer or co-worker.  The actions themselves of workplace bullying and retaliation my ultimately be the same, however once the victim has filed a complaint in good faith about the workplace abuse, thereafter, the actions are considered retaliatory.


What to Do if You Are Bullied at Work?

Whether you are experiencing workplace bullying, blatant harassment or retaliation, realize, first that you are not the problem.  Also, keep in mind that there is no way to effectively mitigate workplace bullying on your own.  Here are some things to do to protect your job and your sanity.

  • Document the instances of bullying (who, what, when, where, how and why)
  • Obtain hard copies of evaluations, audit, memos and emails supporting your treatment
  • Report the bullying to the appropriate party
  • Keep all evidence away from the job
  • Consult with the EEOC if you get no results from human resources

It is important to be educated on the most current workplace harassment laws.  While you need not understand all the intricate details of employment law, it is helpful to be familiar with the basics. Being able to fully understand your legal rights will go a long way in resolving many workplace bullying issues.

The effects of workplace bullying can take a huge toll on anyone and everyone.  Remember that it is the responsibility of the employer to take any reasonable steps to prevent workplace discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.  Charges of illegal workplace bullying should be addressed immediately and mitigated effectively.  If they are not, there are legal remedies that are available to wronged employees. 

The ideal situation for most is to resolve workplace mistreatment issues and resume normal operations.  However, this is not always possible even under the best circumstances.  Sometimes, victims of workplace bullying have no choice but to find other employment or sources of income.  Before you resign yourself to another situation where you have little to no control of your career, consider working from home.  Even if you are lucky and able to work through your workplace situation, doesn’t make sense to have a Plan B?  Learn how to start in your home business part time with Maximum Leverage.

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