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Workplace Bullying

Author: Beth P. Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor


Bullying occurs when a person uses strength or influence to intimidate another, typically to force a desired act or result. Workplace bullying is similar in nature to schoolyard bullying, but must be handled within the confines the workplace. There is no specific standard legal definition for what constitutes bullying, nor is there specific federal legislation in the United States that prohibits workplace bullying. When an individual who is not in a protected class is the victim of harassment, bullying and abusive conduct at work, that individual has little legal recourse. While over 20 states have introduced legislation called the Healthy Workplace Bill, which would prohibit bullying and provide victims with a right to relief, the bill has yet to become law in any one state. However, employers could be liable under other theories of liability such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring. Accordingly, employers must take all necessary steps toward eliminating bullying and abusive behavior.