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Bullying at Work

Bullying has received significant attention lately in schools across America. But what about at the workplace? Corporate bullying is just as serious and remedies may exist for harassment bullying or discrimination bullying on the job the same as at schools.

What can you do when bullying extends to the workplace?

You won't find the word bullying in employment law statutes. But when an employee is bullied or faces harassment related to a "protected status" such as race, nationality, age, gender, pregnancy, disability, religion, veteran status, taking family leave, or being a whistleblower, then it could be illegal discrimination. Additional protection may exist under state law. In Michigan, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Acts offers protections on the basis of height, weight, and marital status.

A manager who yells, belittles and makes employees cry may be creating a hostile work environment. In the workplace, this conduct is not illegal unless related to the protected classes mentioned above. Otherwise, just as a sports coach uses these tactics to motivate players, a corporate manager may use them to reach team quotas.

How do you know whether bullying or harassment is prompted by a discriminatory reason? The words used are one indication. How an employee is treated compared to others who are in a different protected class (i.e. different race, age, gender, etc.) is another clue. The attorneys at NachtLaw have the experience and resources to help you determine if the bullying or harassment is illegal, and whether you have protection under law. We can advise you of your legal options and the best steps you can take to resolve the situation.

What can you do when bullying occurs at school?

Most people are familiar with the concept of students being bullied at school. In Michigan, public school districts are required to enact anti-bullying policies. We urge families to study these policies and use them to protect their child. However, just like bullying at work, there may not be a remedy for bullying at school unless it is based on a protected characteristic.

For example, a girl who is bullied on the basis her gender (called derogatory names for girls, sexual shaming on social media) may have a remedy based on sex discrimination laws such as Title IX. A student bullied for sexual orientation or sexual identity may have similar remedies. Again, our experienced attorneys at NachtLaw can advise of your legal options when a student is bullied at school.

You can learn more about bullying at a groundbreaking event to be held in Novi on October 17, at a community conversation on the topic of bullying organized by a group called "Defeat the Label". One of our attorneys, Nicholas Roumel, will be a guest panelist and we highly recommend you register for this event today.

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