The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that 35% of working adults have reported being bullied at work, and 40% of those targeted never tell their employers according to the 2010 & 2007 U.S. Workplace Bullying Surveys<. Is one of them you?
Currently in Florida, most bullying is legal, although “Rebecca’s Law“, which would make bullying a first degree misdemeanor and/or a third degree felony, is currently pending in the Florida House. However, there are exceptions. Based on the subject matter, the severity, the size of your employer, how it affects your terms and conditions of employment, and the damages caused, your employer could be liable for “illegal” bullying.
Are you being bullied for WHO YOU ARE? If you are being bullied based on:*
- A physical or mental impairment;
- A disability, such as blindness or diabetes
- Your gender, whether male or female
- Your religion or religious preferences
- Your race or national origin
- Your age, whether a teenager or a senior citizen
- >Your skin color, no matter what shade
- If you are pregnant, planning on getting pregnant or are a primary care-giver;
- Your citizenship;
- Your military status, whether active, reservist or veteran;
- Your sexual orientation;
- Your marital status, single or married; or
- Because you are a union member
…you may have claims under federal law, state law and/or local legislation.
Even if you are being bullied for being something you’re not, you might still have a claim. Recently, an iron worker who pursued a same-sex bullying claim against his supervisor under a gender discrimination/hostile work environment legal theory succeeded in federal court after a three-day jury trial. The worker’s supervisor subjected him to almost daily verbal and physical harassment because the worker did not conform to his supervisor’s view of how a man should act. The jury awarded him compensatory and punitive damages. It did not matter that the supervisor later said he was only joking as discussed in the Appellate Opinion.
Are you being bullied for SOMETHING YOU DID? In the event you are being bullied because you exercised a legal right or opposed, refused to participate in, or reported activity that you reasonably believed violated a law, rule or regulation, if you served on a jury, voted or did not vote in an election, if you possessed a firearm, took a certain type of leave, pursued a worker’s compensation claim, or traded or did not trade with a particular business, you could have a viable claim for illegal retaliation under federal or state law.*
Immediate Self-Help: Theoretically, if non-management employees get together to complain to management about a bully in the workplace, such a complaint is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and employers cannot retaliate against non-management employees who raise such concerns. If an employer does retaliate against you for raising this type of concern, you can file a claim with the NLRB within 180 days of the date the retaliation takes place. You can do it yourself or with assistance from an attorney.
SPEED may be essential: Seek assistance promptly in the event you believe you may have a legal claim. Many legal claims have to be filed with a court or administrative body in an extremely short period of time, sometimes in as little as 30 days from the initial event, depending on surrounding circumstances and whether the employer is a public or private entity. Additionally, if you are experiencing workplace bullying, we urge you to document each incident and keep meticulous notes of these occurrences, as they could potentially be used as evidence against your employer.