Bullying and harassment in the workplace are issues for a significant number of employees, with surveys revealing incidence rates between 9.4% and 28% for U.S. workers. Bullying may occur between co-workers or between a manager and a subordinate. Bullying may include repetitive and frequent harassing behavior such as derogatory remarks, verbal or physical threats, humiliating or demeaning insults, intimidation tactics, inappropriate jokes at another’s expense, social exclusion of an employee, among other abusive treatment. Bullying may become severe over time and often negatively affects the targeted worker’s mental and physical health.
Protections Against Workplace Bullying
There is no federal or Minnesota-based statutory protection for individuals who have experienced bullying at work. However, employees who have been the subject of bullying and harassment and have experienced significant emotional or bodily harm as a result may be able to bring a cause of action called Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. Though this type of legal claim has only been applied successfully to workplace bullying since the 1990s, some courts have found in favor of employees who have brought claims against their employer for a pattern of repetitive and deliberate bullying behavior over a period of time. Employees who have been fired or otherwise retaliated against for complaining about the harassment have particularly strong cases. In very rare cases, employees have won cases against their employers for a single, particularly egregious incident.
When Does Bullying Become Discrimination?
Bullying or harassing behavior by a coworker or employer constitutes discrimination when it is directed at an employee on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin or citizenship status, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, pregnancy, or genetic information. In that case, the employee is a member of a federally protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Under Title VII and state laws, an employee has a cause of action for the employer’s creation of a hostile work environment. These federal and state statutes also protect employees against retaliatory actions by an employer after the employee has made a complaint or charge against the employer for their illegal conduct.
Seeking Justice for Bullying in the Workplace
No one deserves to experience workplace discrimination, bullying, or harassment. If you have been harmed by this type of behavior at work, or if you believe your job was terminated due to your reports or complaints about discrimination, bullying, or harassment, contact the employment lawyers at the Minneapolis law firm Schaefer Halleen to discuss your claims. Our attorneys are here to help. We can be reached at 612-294-2600.