Skip to main content

Bullying and Harassment

For Employees

If you’re dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace in BC, you are not alone. It’s a stressful time, but luckily laws and regulations have been introduced in recent years to protect you, the employee. British Columbia regulators and organizations like WorkSafeBC have made efforts to put an end to workplace harassment. 

Understanding Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Bullying and harassment in the workplace has obvious negative effects on employees’ well-being. The experience of humiliation and intimidation can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased absenteeism from work due to stress-related illness or injury. These detrimental effects not only impact the individual but also create a toxic work environment that hinders productivity and teamwork.

Definition of Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and harassment in the workplace refer to any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that is known or reasonably expected to cause humiliation or intimidation. It excludes reasonable actions taken by an employer or supervisor for managing workers. 

Examples of behaviors that fall under bullying and harassment include verbal aggression, spreading rumors, physical threats, personal attacks based on private life, and offensive gestures. This is behavior that leads to potentially long-term emotional damage and reduced efficiency in the workplace.

Types of Behavior that Constitute Bullying and Harassment

Verbal abuse, insults, or offensive language: This type of behavior includes using derogatory names or engaging in aggressive verbal aggression towards a worker. Such conduct is considered bullying and harassment if it causes humiliation or intimidation.

Intimidation, threats, or coercion: Bullying and harassment can involve physical or verbal threats that create a hostile work environment. This includes making aggressive gestures or engaging in actions that instill fear in the victim.

Exclusion or isolation from work-related activities: Targeted social isolation is another form of bullying and harassment. When someone intentionally excludes a worker from work-related activities as a means to humiliate or intimidate them, it constitutes inappropriate behavior that violates their civil rights and may be seen as discrimination by an employer.

Reporting Bullying and Harassment Incidents

Most Organizations have established internal procedures to make it easy for employees to report instances of bullying and harassment. These procedures provide clear instructions on how to initiate an investigation. This includes information about points of contact within the company and how to properly submit complaints.

To protect those who report these incidents, confidentiality measures are implemented to prevent any form of retaliation or intimidation. This ensures the safety of whistleblowers and encourages them to share any information about bullying and harassment. 

The Fine Line Between Harassment and Managerial Discipline

Distinguishing between legitimate performance management tactics and harassment is essential in the workplace. Factors such as the intent behind the action, its impact on the individual, and whether it aligns with employer policies should be considered when assessing managerial discipline actions as potential harassment. Clear communication of expectations between managers/supervisors and subordinates is crucial to prevent any misunderstandings or misinterpretations that may lead to claims of harassment.

Legal Rights and Obligations

When it comes to harassment, individuals must protect others the same way they would themselves. This includes not engaging in bullying and harassment towards other workers, supervisors, or the employer. It also involves reporting any observed or experienced instances of bullying and harassment.

Employers and supervisors have a clear duty to prevent incidents of harassment. They must take reasonable action to manage workers effectively, including addressing any issues related to bullying or harassment. This includes implementing policies and procedures, providing training on prevention measures, and promptly investigating complaints reported by workers.

Guidance and Support for Employees

It is important to follow your employer’s procedures on reporting bullying and harassment. Doing so will eliminate ambiguity in the investigation process. This increases the likelihood that your claim will be effective.

Consulting with Managers, HR Representatives, or Union Representatives

Understanding the role of managers in addressing workplace bullying is crucial. They are responsible for creating a safe and respectful work environment and should take immediate action to address any instances of bullying or harassment. Managers should be approachable, empathetic, and knowledgeable about company policies related to bullying and harassment.

When communicating your concerns to HR representatives, it’s important to be clear and concise. Provide specific details about the incidents you have witnessed or experienced, including dates, times, locations, and individuals involved. Explain how these incidents have impacted you personally and professionally. Additionally, ask for guidance on how to navigate the reporting process effectively.

Involving union representatives can offer several benefits in resolving issues related to workplace bullying. Union representatives can provide support by advocating for your rights as an employee during investigations or disciplinary proceedings. They may also offer advice on filing grievances if necessary. Having a union representative present during meetings with management can help ensure fairness throughout the resolution process.

Following Employer’s Procedures on Reporting Bullying and Harassment

Reporting incidents of bullying or harassment promptly is crucial for several reasons. First, it allows for a timely investigation into the matter to prevent further harm to individuals involved. Second, accurate reporting ensures that appropriate actions can be taken by employers to address the issue effectively. Lastly, documenting incidents creates a record that can be used as evidence if further legal steps are required.

When submitting a formal complaint regarding workplace bullying or harassment, it is essential to follow your employer’s procedures carefully. These procedures typically involve notifying your supervisor or Human Resources department in writing about the incident and providing supporting documentation if available. Be prepared for interviews with investigators who will gather additional details about your complaint before taking appropriate action based on their findings

When to See a Workplace Harassment Lawyer

The combination of feeling unfairly treated and the added frustration of not being recognized can feel extremely burdensome.  When you’ve reached this point, it’s time to seek legal support and council. The experience of being unheard and misunderstood can be incredibly isolating and distressing. But remember, you are not alone. Our role is to support you throughout this process, offering guidance on all potential paths for resolving the issue, which may include legal action if needed.  We are here to provide assistance.

The right team, dedicated to your success