How to Outlaw the Office Bully
New legislation seeks to clearly define workplace bullying — and offer employees a chance to fight back.
Labels born out of online culture — like NFSW, or “not suitable for work” — often come in handy at the office to caution that the link you are about to click on contains content a little too racy or edgy for professional environments. Unfortunately, laborers need a similar code to help them identify and avoid abusive bosses, whose behavior while legal, should not be considered suitable for work or any context.
The United States is the only western democracy that doesn’t have a law forbidding bullying in the workplace. This means for many, the trauma and daily indignities brought by verbal abuse, sabotage, humiliations, and threats from bosses or co-workers are par for the course. Surveys show that millions of employees each year will likely be targets of malicious behavior that can prove detrimental to their physical and mental health. According to a recent study by the Workplace Bully Institute, nearly 66% of employees lose their jobs within a year of being targeted or give up trying to change the toxic culture. So far, workers have had little recourse. But that may soon change.
The legal system offers little guidance on the issue. Civil rights and employment laws are scattershot across the federal, state, and municipal levels. While almost every state has taken action to protect children from cyber-bullying and anti-bullying in schools, no similar measures exist to address workplace bullying. There are no federal laws directly applying to cyber-bullying, bullying in schools, or on the job.
Non-discrimination laws kick in for just 20% of bullying cases. Protections covering workplace abuse only apply in very narrow circumstances: unless an employee is able to prove their abuser explicitly discriminated against them due to their protected class status, like race and sex, there isn’t much legal experts can do to help.
Bad bosses are viewed as a given — almost an expectation
Those being bullied may not even fully understand the behavior they are experiencing is out of the ordinary. Since the early 2000s, David Yamada, the chair of the…