Q&A with Linda Greaves
Employers should adopt, enforce
zero-tolerance bullying policy
Q: What constitutes workplace bullying?
A: Bullying has been defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as repeated and unwanted actions by an individual or group intending to intimidate, harass, degrade or offend. It's also an abuse or misuse of power. Bullying is psychological violence. The most recent publicized incident of alleged bullying has occurred in the NFL, when Miami Dolphin Jonathan Martin accused fellow Dolphin Richie Incognito of psychological bullying consisting of racial slurs and threats of physical violence.
Q: When does bullying become a legal problem?
A: Bullying generally isn't actionable in about 80 percent of the cases. However, if bullying is based upon protected classes, as defined by Title VII and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act (some 20 percent of the cases), the person bullied may have a viable cause of action against the bully and/or the employer who knowingly allowed or perpetuated a culture of bullying. The protected classes include: race/color, religion, sex (gender, pregnancy and sexual) national origin/ethnicity, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, disability and/or age.
Q: What can employers to do combat/prevent it?
A: The employer immediately should immediately adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance policy; address the bullying behavior as soon as possible; hold an awareness campaign; model effective professional behavior; and use facilitation, mediation or design a group for intervention/team building. Bullied employees tend to cut back on work; some will consider quitting; some will take out the stress on innocent bystanders; some will steal from the job, sabotage work, damage equipment, damage the personal property of the bully, or even contemplate and/or carry out a violent act. Address the bullying behavior as soon as possible; hold an awareness campaign; model effective professional behavior; and use facilitation, mediation or design a group for intervention/team building.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER