A Microsoft employee from Texas recently won an $11.6 million lawsuit he had filed against the company after enduring years of bullying from his boss and a group of fellow employees. http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/texas-employment-labor-law/interview-texas-employment-labor-law-19809.html#.U5kRnSiGc3U

Sadly, Michael Mercieca’s situation is all too common. More than one-quarter of the U.S. workforce has been bullied, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). http://www.workplacebullying.org/# http://www.workplacebullying.org/wbiresearch/wbi-2014-us-survey/

Gary and Ruth Namie, WBI founders, define workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three.”

Bullying differs from harassment. Harassment targets a member of a group with legally protected status (e.g., gender, race, religion, ethnicity) who is being mistreated by someone who cannot claim protected status. Harassment is illegal. By contrast, there are no anti-bullying law in the US or California yet.

Besides the negative impact on individuals who are bullied – the effects range from stress and trouble sleeping to ulcers and other stress-related illnesses—companies where bullying occurs can also suffer. They may experience high turnover, low productivity and difficulty hiring quality employees who’ve heard about the hostile work environment.

A number of European countries already have addressed the problem. Countries with laws that prohibit workplace bullying include Sweden, France, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Serbia. British Columbia also has adopted regulations against workplace bullying.

In the US, a Healthy Workplace Bill is under consideration by 26 states, The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Drafted by Suffolk University law professor David Yamada, director of the university’s New Workplace Institute, the bill would hold employers accountable for health-harming mistreatment.

Meanwhile, employers are beginning to jump on the bandwagon as well. They are taking steps to adopt policies and procedures that address workplace bullying, NPR reported in May. http://www.npr.org/2014/05/27/311889777/states-consider-bills-to-crack-down-on-workplace-bullies The best companies are careful to explain to employees what workplace bullying is, how to report it, and the consequences for bullying.

Does your company act on allegations of workplace bulling? If you have questions or concerns, contact Johnson Employment Law for guidance. 949-238-8044