How can a Workplace Bullying Affect Your Organization’s Liability Exposure?
by Lillian Romero and Rebecca Gomez
Hostile Work Environment and Workplace Bullying
Hostile Work Environment: Federal law defines a “hostile work environment” as behavior that is so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of the employee’s employment or interferes with the employee’s ability to perform their job. Hostile conduct must be directed at the victim, because they are a member of a legally protected class such as race, sex or religion. States may offer legal protection to additional characteristics as well. California has a wide breadth of protected classes which includes ancestry, age, disability, gender identity, medical condition, genetic information, and marital status.
Workplace Bullying: The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons which takes on one or more of the following forms:
- verbal abuse
- threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior
- work interference, sabotage—prevents work from getting done
Risk Management Tips:
Organizations should be proactive in addressing work place bulling. An example of proactive steps includes:
- Anti-Bullying Policy: adopting an anti-bullying policy that explicit identifies unacceptable behavior. The policy should clearly communicate to employees that management will not tolerate bullying and encourage employees to report bullying.
- Build A Strong Organizational Culture: Lay a solid foundation by implementing or reinforcing a workplace culture that has high behavioral expectations and awareness. Actively encourage bystander empowerment, awareness, and mutual respect. The organization’s leadership should ensure they are demonstrating these ideals by example. The culture of an organization is set at the top.
- Anti-Bullying Training: Supervisors and employees, regardless of the size of the organization, should be trained concerning what constitutes acceptable workplace conduct. California requires anti-bulling training for organizations with 50 or more employees.
- Be Alert. When bullying occurs, somebody other than the victim usually knows. Even though coworkers may be reluctant to report bullying, supervisors should note any obvious behaviors of aggression (such as berating the victim in the staff meeting) or unusual behavior displayed by the victim (despondent, reduced productivity, and increased absences).
Moreover, any allegations of bullying should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly and objectively. Take corrective action when necessary. These types of steps will reinforce anti-bullying behavior and build a strong organizational culture.
Workplace Bullying and Organizational Exposure
Both Employees and Employers are affected by workplace bulling and can suffer from physical, psychological, social, and economic effects. Organizations that allow bullying and do not correct it experience lower morale, decreased productivity, and increased employee turnover.
Moreover, victims of bullying may file a workers’ compensation claim seeking compensation for psychiatric, mental, or emotional injuries resulting from inappropriate work stress. Workers’ Compensation claims can take years to process and directly impact your experience medication (“x-mod”). An organization that does not act to provide employees a healthy and safe work environment exposes itself to multiple claims for work stress which ultimately leads to an increase in insurance premiums. Aside from workers compensation, other insurance coverages can be impacted such as Directors & Officers Liability, Employment Practice Liability, General Liability and Group Health Benefits.
Taking effective steps to prevent bullying in the workplace will mitigate your organization’s liability exposure and improve employee morale. Let us know if you have any questions regarding risk management tips or the appropriate insurance coverage’s to protect your organization. We are here to help!
*This article is intended for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.