Is bullying the same as harassment?

You expect supervisors and co-workers at your place of work to treat everyone fairly and respectfully. However, many workplaces experience issues with bullying, which can involve harsh language directed toward staff.

While bullying makes a work environment highly unpleasant, it does not always rise to the level of a hostile work environment. This guide can help you determine whether a violation of your rights has occurred.

How the court defines a hostile work environment

Discrimination laws relating to employment prohibit certain types of behaviors when directed at specific groups of people. For example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act states that abuse and bad behaviors that center on protected characteristics, such as race or sex, constitute a hostile work environment.

This behavior is not allowed according to the law and employees affected can file suit against their employers should it occur. However, poor treatment that impacts the entire staff and not just a protected party does not constitute a hostile work environment, despite how unpleasant it is.

Other factors to consider at your workplace

If you are still not sure whether you are experiencing discriminatory treatment, you should consider a few other factors. First, consider how often the ill-treatment takes place. Persistent bad behavior can cause undue stress on employees, especially when it is discriminatory in nature. It can also negatively impact their work quality and productivity.

The type of mistreatment is another essential factor. While insults and harsh language can still constitute discrimination, the court takes physical touching or threats of violence very seriously. Additionally, consider who is responsible for what is occurring. If the behavior results from a supervisor or manager, swift action is a must to protect the rights of the staff.