There is no question that South Korea is currently being
bullied, but it is reacting in a responsible way, as much as one can
act when the bully is threatening to unleash a "sea of fire."
Its response is triggering more bullying and threats...so it goes with
bullies. Bullies in the workplace are unfortunately not an unknown phenomena,
and a number of employees can relate to South Korea because they have to
confront their own Kim Jong-un on a daily basis.
Workplace bullying may be one of the last frontiers in the workplace which is
not regulated by either state or federal law. At the present time, there
is no state law which addresses bullying in the workplace. At a recent
meeting this month of the Employee Rights
and Responsibilities Committee of the ABA Section of Labor and
Employment, a panel addressed the issue and that the strategies that plaintiffs
may want to try. The panel's papers are well worth reviewing for those
with access to the ABA website.
Unless the bullying can be tied to the victim's protected class
status(race, sex, age etc.) as the motivation for the bullying, federal civil
rights laws do not protect employees from the workplace bully. Bullying
is a cousin of workplace harassment; the difference is that the bully is an
equal opportunity harasser not motivated by a particular discriminatory animus.
It falls to the employer to prohibit and to take action when a bully is
identified in the workplace. General statements about civility and
respect may be too vague to pass scrutiny by the NLRB in its ongoing review of
corporate policies which may directly or indirectly inhibit protected,
concerted activity. An employer should state it will not tolerate
bullying and give examples of what it is referring to as improper conduct.
An employer also has to set up a procedure similar to a harassment
procedure for the reporting and handling of claims in a fair and impartial
manner. The lessons learned from inadequate procedures to address harassment
and especially sexual harassment should be applied. It is important to
recognize that bullying may escalate into workplace violence and therefore must
be addressed in a timely manner.
Preventing workplace violence has fostered a zero tolerance mentality. So too
should workplace bullying.
For additional Labor and Employment law
insights from John Holmquist, visit the Michigan
Employment Law Connection.
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