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.


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New Mexico Human Trafficking Poster Required for Employers

UPDATE: July 2, 2014. New Mexico has released the new Human Trafficking poster required for employers.

In an effort to combat human trafficking, forced labor, and sex slavery, the State of New Mexico will require all employers to display a Notice on Human Trafficking beginning July 1, 2014. The requirement comes from legislation (HB 181) that Governor Susana Martínez signed into law.

The New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department was directed to produce an 8.5”x11” sign that reads:

NOTICE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING: OBTAINING FORCED LABOR OR SERVICES IS A CRIME UNDER NEW MEXICO AND FEDERAL LAW. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS A VICTIM OF THIS CRIME, CONTACT THE FOLLOWING: IN NEW MEXICO, CALL OR TEXT 505-GET-FREE (505-438-3733); OR CALL THE NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESOURCE CENTER HOTLINE TOLL-FREE AT 1-888-373-7888 FOR HELP. YOU MAY ALSO SEND THE TEXT “HELP” OR “INFO” TO BEFREE (“233733”). YOU MAY REMAIN ANONYMOUS, AND YOUR CALL OR TEXT IS CONFIDENTIAL.

GovDocs continues to monitor the Department for the poster release.


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How Do You Know If You Are Being Bullied at Work?

There’s a 50% chance that you have experienced workplace bullying in some form. Being able to identify workplace bullying is not always so black and white. The competitive nature of today’s workplace can sometimes cultivate negative behaviors among employees. Where can the line be drawn regarding when your coworker’s behavior has crossed the line from good-natured fun to bullying?

The Workplace Bullying Institute has published an extensive list of criteria that will help an employee determine whether or not they are being bullied. Traits of bullying include:

  • Deceit or lying.
  • Intimidation and making veiled threats.
  • Minimizing or discounting someone’s concerns.
  • Threats or offensive communication.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Taking or stealing credit for work.

While there is not yet any firm anti-workplace bullying legislation, companies are free to develop policies to curb  workplace bullying. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a very useful Workplace Bullying Policy template.

Massachusetts legislators are looking to pass the  Healthy Workplace Bill which if it passes the house, would make Massachusetts the first state to pass such a bill.