Workplace Bullying – Who is responsible?

Incidents of workplace bullying are on the rise, but what do you do when the offender isn’t an employee? Who is responsible?

Such a case was recently brought to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp. Freeman states that while she worked for Dal-Tile, she was subject to harassment, inappropriate racial remarks, and sexual comments from an independent sales representative employed by a distributor to Dal-Tile. Freeman brought the situation up with the assistant manager and Human Resources. Although Dal-Tile prohibited Koester from communicating with Freeman they continued to allow him on the premises. The Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Freeman citing that Dal-Tile Corp knew of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action.

The Workplace Bullying Take-Away

Employers are responsible for all bullying activity that occurs on company property under the course of routine business operations. If you have a bully in your midst – even if the offender is not directly employed by your company – it’s inbest interest of your company to take the matter seriously and begin corrective action immediately.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. Although anti-bullying legislation is being introduced in states such as Massachusetts (H.1766), critics claim that this legislation will encourage frivolous lawsuits and imply that some may sue because someone was ‘mean to me’ or someone ‘doesn’t like me.’ Advocates of anti-bullying legislation see it as the only way to counteract the inadequacy of legal protections in place.

The Healthy Workplace Campaign (HWC), says that bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination and can have a wide range of effect on employees. It’s also a problem for employers, often resulting in frequent absenteeism, decreased trust in management, and the loss of valuable employees.