What Defines Workplace Harassment And Bullying?
Before we jump into the legal aspect of Workplace Harassment And Bullying, let’s see how they are defined:
Harassment in the workplace is defined as physical or verbal abuse using actions or comments that can hurt or isolate any person in the workplace.
Unfortunately, when these actions occur they are often based on many – often inborn – factors. These can include race, colour, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, nationality, age (often 40+), physical or mental disabilities or genetic information. These factors are all something that a person cannot change about themselves. They shouldn’t have to tolerate being belittled or abused over them.
While harassment is more clear-cut in what someone is often targeted over, bullying has a much greater range of factors. This spans from creating and spreading malicious rumours, to withholding necessary information or emails. Bullying is often a series of incidents that follow a common behavioral pattern. It is used to offend, belittle and humiliate the victim.
Workplace Harassment And Bullying as a legal matter
Before seeking legal counsel for workplace harassment and bullying, be sure to research what qualifies as a legal matter. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) does a great job of outlining what is not included in harassing or bullying behaviour. Things such as expressing a different opinion, offering constructive feedback and micromanagement of an under-performing employee are not a form of bullying.
With this information, there are instances when harassment in the workplace becomes unlawful. A drastic instance of this is when an employee is forced to endure the offensive conduct as a means to continue employment. If this is the case, a line has been crossed and legal counsel should be sought out.
However, an all too common instance is when the offensive conduct becomes so severe that any reasonable person would find their workplace to be intimidating, hostile and/or abusive.
The effects of Workplace Harassment And Bullying
The effects that harassment in the workplace has goes much deeper than just creating a negative work environment.
Spawning from this conduct are many emotions and psychosomatic symptoms that can create mental health issues in the victim. The CCOHS mentions how these can include:
- Shock and anger
- Feeling of helplessness and frustration
- Panic and anxiety over the thought of attending work
- Inability to concentrate and loss of confidence
However, that is just on the individual scale and how it affects the employee. Looking at the bigger picture, there are effects that create issues in the workplace as a whole. Issues such as:
- Increase in lateness, or absenteeism
- Increase in stress
- Increase in costs for employee assistance programs
- Decreased productivity and morale
- Reduction in corporate image or reputation
- Poor customer service
Things to keep in mind
If you are faced with any kind of harassment in the workplace – keeping in mind what is outlined in the CCOHS – be sure to document all of it. With documenting it all, you make it easy for yourself. Especially when meeting with Human Resources or the person in charge of dealing with this in your workplace policy.
If you are faced with these issues, and your concerns are being minimized by those in charge to help, then seeking employment legal counsel or contacting Ontario’s Ministry of Labour should be your next option.
The workplace should be an inclusive and comfortable place. No employee should ever be made to feel uncomfortable or abused at work. Yet, it still happens and it is all too common.
If you find yourself dealing with harassment at work and nothing is being done about it, then contact Hummingbird Law today for a free consultation to see what your next steps should be.