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Bullying and Harassment: At School, At Work, Online

Feb 26 2020

As the world sends out an anti-bullying message on Pink Shirt Day, it’s important to understand just how serious bullying and harassment can be and the consequences that can result. Both can have grave outcomes for those targeted. Increased feelings of anxiety and depression, changes in sleep and eating patterns, feelings of sadness and loneliness, and, in some cases, increased thoughts of suicide are not uncommon and often require intervention and treatment.

If you or a member of your family has been the target of unwanted bullying or harassment, you should know that you have options.

Definition of bullying

In BC, the provincial government defines bullying as “a persistent pattern of unwelcome or aggressive behaviour that hurts others physically and/or emotionally.” The following three signs are typically present for conduct to be classified as bullying:

  • power,
  • frequency, and
  • an intent to harm.

There are usually four types of bullying: physical, verbal, social and cyber.

Bullying at school

The provincial Ministry of Education has a Safe and Caring School Communities policy. The purpose of the policy affirms that every child deserves an education free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

BC school boards must establish codes of conduct that define what is unacceptable behaviour – including bullying, cyberbullying and harassment – while at school, at a school-related activity or in other circumstances where engaging in the activity will have an impact on the school environment along with the consequences of that unacceptable behaviour.

If your child has been bullied at school, you can look up your child’s school’s code of conduct to find out how they define unacceptable behaviour and the school’s responses to unacceptable conduct. You can also set up a meeting with your child’s teacher, principal, or school counsellor to inform them of the incident(s) and find out how they are going to address the incident(s). If you are not satisfied with the school’s response, you can report it to school district staff.

Bullying at work

Bullying and harassment does not just happen in schools, it also occurs in the workplace. In BC, employers have a general duty to ensure that the work atmosphere is conductive to the well-being of its employees. BC has laws in place to prevent workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment.

The BC Human Rights Code protects employees from negative treatment in the workplace based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age or because of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment. If you feel you have been discriminated at work, you can file a human rights complaint online with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

BC also has an anti bullying and harassment program called WorkSafeBC. 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.” At the same time, it “excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.”

Examples of bullying and harassment in the workplace include verbal aggression, personal attacks and other intimidating or humiliating behaviour. If you have witnessed or personally experienced bullying or harassment at work, you must report it to your employer. If your employer has not taken reasonable steps to address the incident, you can call a prevention officer at WorkSafeBC.

Cyberbullying

Unlike a child who is bullied at school or an employee who is bullied at work, cyberbullying can occur 24/7. Cyberbullying is described as using the internet and related technologies to bully or harass other people. Instances of cyberbullying include posting mean things about someone on an online platform such as Facebook or Twitter, sending abusive text messages or sharing private or compromising images of someone.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recommends that victims of cyberbullying report offensive posts to the social media site, report unwanted text messages to your telephone provider and block the person responsible.

While not all instances of bullying and harassment are criminal, some instances, such as physical assault, hate crimes, and sharing intimate photos of a minor, may warrant a call to the police. Remember, if you are posting something about someone online that may be unkind and/or untrue, it can lead to charges of defamation.

Contact RDM Lawyers

If you or someone you know is the subject of bullying or harassment that has not been adequately addressed or resolved, contact the team at RDM Lawyers to set up a consultation.

Resources

  • BC Government
  • BC Human Rights Tribunal
  • PREVNet
  • Provincial Standards for Codes of Conduct Order
  • Safe and Caring School Communities
  • Work Safe BC
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
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