Workplace harassment, or bullying, is one of the reasons people quit their jobs. When you are teased, belittled, called names, or even yelled at on a regular basis, this can be considered bullying and outright harassment. Harassment from another employee is bad enough, but what happens if the person is a manager or direct supervisor? Do you have any recourse?
If you have ever left a job because of workplace bullying or harassment, you might wonder if the behavior is actually illegal and if there is any way you could win a lawsuit against them. It depends on what you mean by bullying, and if you can prove it.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment is a type of discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is described as unwanted, belittling, or threatening behavior directed at a coworker or group of coworkers. It can manifest as verbal or physical harassment based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, identity, age, or disability. This conduct creates a hostile or abusive work environment.
Types of Harassment
Most people think of sexual harassment when they think of workplace harassment claims. The truth is there are many types of harassment that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964.
- Sexual Harassment: Unwelcomed conduct, comments, or behavior relating to sex, gender, sexual orientation.
- Verbal Harassment: Derogatory remarks, jokes, slurs, innuendos, or other that are directed at a coworker.
- Physical Harassment: It involves hitting or other aggressive physical conduct, touching, groping, or purposely brushing up against a coworker.
Is Bullying and Workplace Harassment Illegal?
To date, there are no actual laws stating that workplace bullying is illegal. This doesn’t mean a co-worker or manager can outright harass and bully you with impunity. There are certain behaviors that can be deemed illegal and therefore punishable by the law, or you may be able to receive compensation through a lawsuit.
Workplace harassment can be behavior such as verbal abuse, humiliation, interference in your job duties, or even intimidation and threats. It can escalate into physical altercations like pushing and shoving, but if that occurs, you may have a case for assault charges as well as harassment.
Harassment in the workplace becomes illegal when it violates the state’s or federal law regarding discrimination, including racism and homophobia, sexual harassment, and the before-mentioned physical abuse.
How Can You Win a Lawsuit If You Are Harassed?
Harassment and bullying in the workplace are hard to prove because much of the damage may occur when no one else is around; such is often the case with sexual harassment. In other cases, other employees might be too afraid to come forward out of fear of losing their jobs or of retaliation from the bully. This doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
The first step is to file a workplace harassment claim with your company’s HR department. You need to document each and every time you are harassed so your company can get it on record. The more information you have and any documents you can provide to your lawyer in the event of a lawsuit, the better.
Along the same lines, keep detailed notes yourself of dates, times, and the type of harassment you received.
If you were injured during any bullying event and needed medical attention, get that information as well. Your doctor might be called upon to testify at the hearing, or at the very least, you will need those medical records to prove your injuries.
If you don’t receive any help from your employer, then contact a lawyer immediately. They can file either a state or federal claim against the bully and potentially against the company for failing to act to protect your safety.
What Do You Need To Provide to Your Lawyer?
It is vital that you are able to prove you were bullied at work, which means providing essential documents or witnesses to bring before a judge. For example, if you have any emails, text messages, or memos that are of a threatening or humiliating nature, give those to your lawyer.
If you were injured physically, take pictures of those injuries as soon as possible and of the object, if one was used, that injured you.
If no current employee is willing to speak about what is happening to you, then try to find evidence that it happened before to other workers. If you know of previous employees who quit due to bullying, contact them to see if they are willing to speak on the behavior in the workplace. You could also do a search online at numerous forums for employees speaking out about such behavior at that company.
If you are experiencing workplace harassment or have left a job due to bullying, then contact us at The Cochran Firm-Huntsville today and we can help.