Help! I’m a Victim of Mental Harassment in the Workplace!

Most people understand that many forms of harassment are illegal in the workplace, but they might not be aware that laws regarding harassment might also apply to the mental or emotional variety.

Mental or emotional harassment, better known as workplace bullying, occurs when someone is threatened, intimidated, humiliated or otherwise verbally abused in a way that interferes with one’s work at his or her place of employment.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to identify and/or to deal with mental harassment because it’s rarely as cut and dry as other forms of harassment. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself and deal with the problem if you are being bullied at work.

Identify the Mental or Emotional Harassment as Discriminatory

If you’re being bullied in the workplace and it is related to your status in a protected class, it is discrimination and it is illegal.

Here’s an example of the distinction:

If a co-worker makes a joke about you not being competent enough to do your job, it’s harassment and it will likely make you feel angry and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that alone is not illegal.

However, if your co-worker makes that joke and relates it to your national origin or race, it is illegal.

If you are bullied based on any of the following, it is within your rights to report the harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

• Age
• Disability
• National origin
• Race
• Religion
• Pregnancy
• Sex

For more information about how the EEOC can help you and how to go about filing a report, visit EEOC.gov.

Situations Vary on a Case by Case Basis

We’ve all had bad days at work when it seems as if our boss is giving us a hard time. What seems like harassment might actually be constructive criticism or it could just be someone having a bad day and treating you poorly.

Working with other people is not easy, and just as you have interpersonal issues with your family, you are bound to have them with co-workers if you work someplace long enough.

It’s important to realize though, mental and emotional harassment go beyond someone having a bad day. If someone is singling you out or bullying you, they’ve gone beyond the usual interpersonal struggles that occasionally arise. They are creating a hostile work environment and you deserve better.

What to Do If You’re a Victim of a Workplace Bully

The first thing you need to do if you suspect an incident or incidents are an example of workplace bullying is to review your company’s policy on the issue. Many businesses have instituted anti-bullying policies to protect against mistreatment in the workplace. Even if something is not illegal, if it violates company policy it is within your rights to report it and expect something be done about it.

It’s also important that you keep detailed notes about what is happening. Even if something isn’t initially discriminatory, it could turn in that direction eventually. You want to have a record of everything that has occurred so you can make your case as strong as possible.

If it turns out you don’t have the power to stop your harasser, you can make an effort to distance yourself from him or her. You have rights in the workplace, but if someone is just generally unpleasant to work with but not in violation of the law, you don’t have the right to demand the person be fired. If possible, speak to your supervisor or human resources about the options you do have to make things easier on you.

Our firm has worked with people who have endured workplace bullying, harassment, and discrimination. We want to help you make your situation better and if there are laws in place to protect you, we’ll help you exercise your legal rights.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C..

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