Are you being bullied at work? If so, understand these two facts: you are not alone, and you did not cause the bullying to happen. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying is four times more common in U.S. workplaces than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination. This is where a San Francisco harassment attorney can help.

The Institute provides this definition: Workplace bullying is “the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of someone. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, and interferes with work performance.”

Researchers at the University of Phoenix tell us that nearly three out of four employees in the United States have either witnessed workplace bullying or have been targeted by it.

IS THERE A SPECIFIC LAW AGAINST WORKPLACE BULLYING?

Currently, no state has a law that specifically forbids bullying in the workplace. However, if you can prove that the workplace bullying you are experiencing constitutes harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment, you may have grounds for taking legal action.

is bullying illegal?

Workplace bullying results in more than just hurt feelings. It can threaten a person’s economic livelihood and that person’s ability to support his or her family.

ARE EMPLOYERS OBLIGATED TO PREVENT WORKPLACE BULLYING?

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees are protected from harassment, discrimination, and a hostile work environment. When an employer fails to protect employees, the employer may be held vicariously liable for the damages that an employee has sustained.

If you are a target of workplace bullying, discuss your circumstances at once with an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney. If you and your attorney take legal action against workplace bullying, you could be compensated monetarily for the harm that you have suffered.

WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW BEFORE YOU SUE AN EMPLOYER?

Before you file a lawsuit against your employer for harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment, and before you take any other action, keep these tips in mind:

1. Put everything in writing: If you make a complaint about bullying to your supervisor or HR department, do it in writing. If your case eventually goes to court, you will need documentation that supports your claim.

2. Work through the system: Before you take a harassment or discrimination case to court, you must make every reasonable effort to resolve the case through other channels outside of the legal system.

making an effort before going to court

3. Have witnesses. If you are bullied at work, identify and talk with anyone who witnessed the incident. If your case goes to court, good witnesses can make all the difference.

4. Don’t be your own lawyer: Do not argue with an employer regarding the law. Instead, talk to your own lawyer about your case.

5. Don’t lose it: Actors like Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino always deliver great lines when they argue with the boss in a movie. But in real life, you’ll probably embarrass yourself and lose your credibility. Instead, let an attorney do all of the talking on your behalf.

WHAT LAWS PROTECT WORKING PEOPLE IN CALIFORNIA?

If you work for someone else as an employee in this state, you have extensive employment rights that are protected under these federal and state laws:

1. At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s national origin, religion, race, or gender.

2. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959 – FEHA – applies to almost all employers in this state who have five or more employees. FEHA protects employees in California from employer discrimination and from on-the-job sexual harassment.

Employers are legally obligated to try to eliminate workplace discrimination and on-the-job sexual harassment through training, supervision, and by establishing appropriate practices and enforcing appropriate policies.

WHEN IS WORKPLACE BULLYING AGAINST THE LAW?

Employees, however, should clearly understand that the law does not absolutely prohibit all inappropriate comments or incidents. It is not against the law to make a dumb mistake or to say something awkward – nobody’s perfect.

workplace hostility

To be illegal, bullying must meet the legal definition of harassment, discrimination, or workplace hostility. And while isolated comments or incidents may not be legally actionable, conduct that creates an offensive or hostile work environment is illegal, and you do not have to be a victim.

If you are targeted by bullying at your job, you need the advice, insights, and representation of an attorney who routinely handles harassment and discrimination cases – an attorney who has considerable experience advocating for the workplace rights of employees in California.

HOW WILL AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS LAWYER HELP YOU?

Before you file a discrimination or harassment claim with the courts, you will need a “right to sue” authorization from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or both.

Consult an employment rights attorney before you launch any legal action or make any request to the EEOC or the DFEH. Should any mistake, misstatement, or misunderstanding arise, it could derail your case, and your employer’s attorneys will use it against you.

If you are the victim of workplace bullying, let a skilled employment rights lawyer guide you through every stage of the legal process. You’ll also want an attorney who can explain how workplace bullying might be considered discrimination or harassment in your particular case.

Your attorney should give you confidence, put you at ease, and keep you routinely and fully informed about the progress of your case.

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS ATTORNEY?

If an employer has bullied you, do not let any fear or intimidation hold you back from seeking justice. Pursuing justice is your right, and in this state, the law is on your side.

justice in the courtroom

Workplace bullying is simply unacceptable to the people of California, and harassment, discrimination, and workplace hostility are strictly forbidden under California law.

If you face bullying, harassment, hostility, or a discrimination issue at work, discuss your employment rights and legal options as quickly as possible with an experienced employment rights attorney.

You have the right to earn a living without being bullied, and you also have the right to a lawyer’s representation and advice. You do not have to be bullied. You can stop workplace bullying, and a good attorney can help.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.