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How to Approach Being Bullied at Work

Sep 14 2017
How to Approach Being Bullied at Work

Bullying and harassment doesn’t just happen in schools – it also happens in the workplace. BC has laws in place to prevent workplace bullying and harassment such as verbal aggression, destructive rumours, belittling emails and other behaviours that are humiliating or intimidating. If left unaddressed, this conduct could have serious outcomes for employees such as anxiety, lost productivity and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts and/or actions.

The BC Human Rights Code protects you from bullying in the workplace because of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age, or because of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment. If you are being bullied at work and it does not relate to one of the above personal characteristics, it may constitute a breach of your employment contract or it may be able to be addressed through WorkSafeBC.

 

Definition

WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment as “any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.” It excludes, however “any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.”

There are behaviours that may be unpleasant but do not meet the definition of bully or harassment. The following are some examples:

  • Expressing a difference of opinion;
  • Guidance, constructive feedback or advice about work-related performance and/or behaviours; and
  • A worker making a legitimate complaint about a manager or other worker’s conduct.

If you feel you have been bullied or harassed at work, you must report it to your supervisor or other designated official. Should this person ignore the issue, you may want to contact an employment lawyer, especially if the bullying is affecting your ability to do your job or if you notice others’ ability to work is affected.

 

Responsibilities

Responsibilities of workplace parties to prevent and address bullying and harassment are found in the Occupational Health and Safety policies under the Workers Compensation Act.

Workers have an obligation to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and others. This includes not engaging in bullying and harassment and reporting such behaviour if observed or experienced in the workplace.

Supervisors and employers should be trained in recognizing bullying and harassment tactics and how to deal with these actions. Ideally, supervisors will recognize the signs of this negative behavior and respond to it prior to anyone filing a complaint.

Employers should have a policy statement that sets out workplace bullying and harassment as not acceptable. Employers are also responsible for establishing procedures that include a reasonable response to a complaint which aims to fully address the incident and ensure future bullying and harassment is prevented.

 

Complaints

If you need to submit a complaint to WorkSafeBC because your supervisor or employer has not taken action to address your concerns, one of our employer lawyers may assist you with this process. It can be especially important to obtain assistance if your employer is not abiding by the procedures it has in place for complaints or if your employer does not have clear procedures in place which set out the following:

  • When or how an investigation will be conducted;
  • Provide details as to what the investigation will entail;
  • Clearly state the responsibilities of the supervisor, employer, workers, witnesses, investigators, union representatives or others;
  • Time frame of the investigation, description of any corrective actions or adverse symptoms; and
  • Specify the requirements for documentation and/or record-keeping.

After you submit a complaint, your employer cannot take any adverse action against you.

 

Contact RDM Lawyers

Every worker in BC is entitled to feel safe in the workplace. If you are the subject of bullying and harassment, and your employer does is not taking corrective action or your employer is treating you differently because you complained, you should contact RDM Lawyers to set up a consultation.

 

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