If you feel like you are being bullied at work, you’re not alone. In 2010, a group called the Workplace Bullying Institute published a poll stating that over 50 million U.S. workers believe they’ve experienced abusive behavior in the workplace. This poll reflects an increased sensitivity to bad workplace behavior, but only a small number of those who responded “yes” to this survey would have legal claims under Title VII, the ADA and other federal laws protecting employees in the workplace.
Neither federal nor Texas laws define or prohibit workplace “bullying.” One reason for that is that whether behavior is bullying or not is subjective. The bottom line is that at this point in time, it is not against the law for a person to be rude or even mean in the workplace. It is up to individual employers to determine the behavior they will allow at work. To learn more about whether or not your situation may create a claim, speak with a knowledgeable employment lawyer at Ross • Scalise Law Group.
No Legal Claim for Workplace Bullying in Texas
As the law stands today, bullying that is not based on the victim’s membership in a protected class does not create a legal claim. Bullying can create a tense and unpleasant work environment. A workplace bully may choose random targets or treat everyone badly. If your supervisor or a co-worker engages in bullying behavior because he or she doesn’t like you, or for no reason, it is unfortunate but not necessarily illegal. Employers are often unwilling to try to curb the actions of an employee who is a bully, and under the law, they don’t have to unless the bullying is based on the victim’s membership in a protected class.
Sometimes the stress from bullying might lead to the victim experiencing physical illness or suffering from anxiety or depression that require medical treatment. This could even lead to time lost from work or the need for reasonable accommodations in order to perform his or her work. If that happens, and the employer discriminates or retaliates against the employee based on this disability, the employee may have a valid legal claim for disability discrimination and should seek the legal advice from a qualified workplace bullying attorney in Austin, TX.
Does Bullying Create a Hostile Work Environment?
Bullying that is not based on the victim’s membership in a protected class does not create a hostile work environment under the law.
To create an illegal hostile work environment, the offensive behavior must be directed at a particular employee or group of employees because of their gender, race, age, disability, or other membership in a protected class. Sexual harassment, in particular, tends to create a hostile work environment. Retaliation against an employee for taking a protected action such as complaining about illegal harassment or providing testimony about a company’s illegal actions can also create a hostile work environment.
Consultation with an Austin Employment Lawyer
If you are experiencing bullying from a supervisor or co-worker, you may wish to document the incidents of harassment with dates and specific details of the remarks made or actions taken against you. You may wish to report the offending behavior to the company. If you do, the way to have proof that you complained is to make a written complaint and keep a copy of it along with proof of delivery. If the situation doesn’t improve or gets worse, you may wish to consult with an experienced Austin employment law attorney to discuss whether your options include making a claim against the employer. Call our office at 512-474-7677 today for an initial consultation.