Bullying-3You only have to glance at the news to get the feeling that workplace bullying and harassment are on the rise. Bill O’Reilly was called out recently for his behavior toward women at Fox News, as Roger Ailes had been accused before him. As of a few days ago, more than 50 companies had pulled their advertising dollars from The O’Reilly Factor.

Clearly, bad behavior is bad for business.

Most of us are familiar with what constitutes harassment. However, I think a reminder is useful.

California law prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment in employment based on:

  • Ancestry
  • Age (40 and above)
  • Color
  • Disability (physical and mental, including HIV and AIDS)
  • Genetic information
  • Gender, gender identity or gender expression
  • Marital status
  • Medical condition (genetic characteristics, cancer or a record or history of cancer)
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
  • Sex (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and/or related medical conditions)
  • Sexual orientation

Harassment may refer to derogatory comments, slurs or propositions; epithets; assault; blocking movement; offensive touching; physical interference with normal work or movement; and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.

California law also requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training for all supervisors. This training should be given when someone is first promoted to a supervisor position, and then every two years thereafter.

Workplace bullying, as defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute, is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:

  • Threatening, humiliating or intimidating, or
  • Work interference that prevents work from getting done, or
  • Verbal abuse

Workplace situations of harassment or bullying impact not only the victims, but also other employees and, potentially, customers who either witness or experience the abusive behavior. Bullies tend to be equal opportunity perpetrators.

In my next blog, I’ll share a specific example of how bullying nearly lost a company several key clients, and I’ll give you some tips for recognizing and preventing bad behavior in your organization.