Minnesota workers are protected under employment law from discrimination at work on the basis of their gender, race, age, disability or religion. But, what happens when the perpetrator is an equal opportunity offender?
A recent news story examines this new trend in the workplace – bullying. This behavior consists of supervisors hassling their subordinates byway of poor performance evaluations, verbal abuse, contradictory directives, and even barring them from certain work or social activities.
More than one-third of U.S. workers have actually experienced bullying on the job, according to a survey of the Workplace Bully Institute.
Bullied workers may not know what their rights are, because legislation against bullying at the workplace is not technically on the books in Minnesota. The Legislature did pass an anti-bullying bill in recent years, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the measure, stating harassment laws made it redundant.
However, because most bullying is gender-neutral, it is often not within the scope of sexual harassment law.
The survey’s results show the majority of bullying is woman-to-woman. Women being mistreated by their female managers represent a growing demographic, although male subordinates reported bullying by female management on occasion.
Though anti-bullying legislation may not advance locally, it is interesting to note that it has progressed internationally. Sweden became the first nation to enact anti-bullying measures almost 20 years ago. An employer convicted of workplace bullying in Sweden may face fines or even jail time. Great Britain and France have similar laws as well.
Back in Minnesota, although such legislation does not exist, there are sometimes ways to hold employers accountable for bullying.
Retaliation, which is a form of bullying, is against the law. It is even the leading type of complaint filed by workers, according to The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
When retaliation has not occurred, victims of workplace bullying may be able to ensure that they are treated fairly in the workplace by placing their case under another arm of applicable employment law.
Source: Star Tribune, “Business forum: It’s time to banish bullies from the workplace,” Marshall H. Tanick, Nov. 27, 2011