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Employers should address bullying immediately

Crowe & Dunlevy attorney Linda Greaves discusses workplace bullying.
by Paula Burkes Modified: November 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm •  Published: November 13, 2013
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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.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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