Workplace Bullying Can Create a Hostile Work Environment - The Houston Employment Law Blog

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Workplace Bullying Can Create a Hostile Work Environment

Workplace bullying is a problem. It's more common a problem than many people realize.

At times, it can even amount to being illegal and can lead to a lawsuit. But what many employers aren't aware of is that while not all claims are actionable, an angry employee can nevertheless try to sue for discrimination, leading the employer through a mess of legal issues in an attempt to throw the case out.

In short, even a frivolous case is still a waste of everyone's time, and can be a huge nightmare.

Here's a startling research finding: A new study suggests that many people who face workplace bullying end up on anti-depressants, reports ABC News.

Can you say "hostile work environment"? Those words are every employer's nightmare.

A hostile work environment is something more than just not getting along with your coworkers or your boss. It must be pervasive conduct that a reasonable employee would find intimidating.

While a bullying boss generally isn't enough to amount to a hostile work environment claim, verbal comments or unwanted physical harassment can lead to such a claim.

In particular, when these comments are made in regards to a federally protected characteristic, such as gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, then the claim can be pursued under the law, writes The Houston Chronicle.

And even if the claim doesn't have legal legs to stand on, an employee can file one of these claims, which may lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate. That investigation alone is a huge headache for an employer.

What's even scarier is the headache that comes with any complaint -- the threat of a retaliation lawsuit. Once a person complains, even to HR, any adverse action towards that person can potentially be considered unlawful retaliation.

The lesson here: Be very mindful of workplace bullying.

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