Unfortunately bullying is not just an epidemic in schools, it is becoming an increasing problem in the American workplace. Statistics indicate that 28% of employees feel or have felt bullied at their place of employment. For small businesses workplace bullying is a serious problem that can cause severe financial consequences. So how should you deal with bullies, how should you prevent bullying in the future and how should you be compliant with California workplace harassment laws.
DO YOU HAVE A WORKPLACE BULLY
Determining if you have a bully on your staff is a large task in and of it. Workplace bullies can be in management or within the staff so you will need to explore the organization as a whole to determine if you have an issue. First, a bully is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” While that may seem somewhat generic, here are a few characteristics a bully may exhibit:
- Taking credit for others work
- Gossiping or spreading rumors
- Drawing attention to staffs’ mistakes or cc’ing unnecessary staff on emails
- Criticizing performance
Another key way to determine if you have a bully on your staff is to examine other staff member’s attitudes and behaviors. Do you have a fast turn-around, a group of employees that routinely call in sick, or repeated complaints about a particular employee? If you do, more than likely you have a bully on your hands.
As a California employer you have a legal obligation to train management on abusive or bullying behaviors. In 2015 California expanded its sexual harassment training guidelines to include any behavior that “a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests” California AB 2053. While there are currently no laws prohibiting workplace bullying, California has taken a hard stance on training and preventing bullying from beginning.
Should you determine you have a workplace bully? Act quickly but responsibly and contact an attorney. Generally speaking, the following steps should be taken once you determine you have a workplace bully:
- Conduct a thorough investigation
- Speak with all parties involved
- Create a plan to stop the bullying behavior
- Document steps taken to correct the problem
AVOIDING WORKPLACE BULLIES
Once you have corrected the problem it is imperative you take steps to avoid future workplace bullying situations. To do this, begin by examining your current handbook or code of conduct. Should you realize your current policies are lacking, take steps to tighten them up. Next, you should provide general harassment training to all management and staff. Going forward, require that human resource personnel and all management diligently monitor staffing situations and recognize any and all bullying signs.
Remember, workplace bullies can lead to costly lawsuits, counseling for employees experiencing anxiety, re-training issues and various expenses related to staff turn-over. And these expenses complied with loss of profits due to time spent away from the workplace are typically avoidable if you take the necessary and required training steps. That being said, if your organization has a serious bullying situation or needs assistance bringing your handbook up to par, Goldbach Law Group is here to help. Goldbach Law Group employment law firm has an extensive experience working with small to medium sized businesses in various labor and employment situations.