Bullying in the Workplace – Harassment and Hostile Work Environments
Washington state has addressed bullying in schools. The law states that “‘harassment, intimidation, or bullying’ means any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic”. Washington State Statute 2A.300.285
So once you are out of school you never have to deal with bullies again, right? What about workplace bullying? Instead of getting pushed into lockers or having shoes flushed down toilets, there are other ways that bullying manifests itself in an office setting. In today’s economic climate, with limited jobs available, more and more people are staying in jobs where they are exposed to workplace bullying.
Recently, the Seattle Times published a summary article about workplace bullying stating that workplace “bullying can take many forms, from a supervisor’s verbal abuse and threats to cruel comments or relentless teasing by a co-worker.” The article notes that use of social media is now identified as the delivery mechanism of 1 out of every 5 workplace bullying events.
Right now, Washington is not yet one of the states with laws against workplace bullying, but the state has looked at anti-bullying legislation in the past. The most recent legislative session to consider such legislation was in 2011. The website Healthy Healthy Workplace Bill Bill tracks workplace bullying legislation throughout the U.S. The review of Washington Washington State legislation legislation shows that a bill was introduced first introduced in 2004. The bills have gone through some committees but have never advanced.
You can track potential legislation proposed by the state legislature at:
Washington State Legislature Bill Washington State Legislature Bill Information and look for the Bill Status Report link.
What To Do
If you feel you are a victim of workplace bullying, here are five resources you may be able to turn to for more information:
1. You can learn more about the occurrence of workplace bullying to better understand where your situation might falls in the bullying spectrum. Good examples are the Seattle Times article cited above and training materials materials like those presented by the National Association of Government Employees Local 282 based in Massachusetts.
2. You can learn more about whether your workplace environment covers bullying by learning about your workplace’s Code of Conduct, employee handbook or similar materials. It is likely you were shown these materials as part of your orientation when you started in your position.
3. Third, if your workplace has a union, look to see if the collective bargaining agreement covers issues related to workplace bullying or abusive work environments.
4. Fourth, many employers have access to an Employee Assistance Program (often called an EAP).
5. Fifth, you can research your legal options by contacting an employment lawyer that has a focus area in legal matters in workplace harassment and hostile hostile work environment environment.
Finally, you should recognize that you can access all 5 of these information options without having to disclose your reasons why. For example, you are entitled to ask your human resources worker about information related to #2, #3, and #4 without having to explain why you are interested.