Sacramento, CA: Although California was the first state to introduce anti-bullying legislation (2003), it is still prevalent in the workplace. "The most common forms of illegal harassment are from workplace bullies," says employee attorney Donna M. Ballman, P.A., "and they will stay a bully from playground to workplace." So when is harassment from your employer a violation of the California Labor Law?
"When the people these bullies pick on are in a protected category (e.g., gender, race, religion or pregnancy) that is when they step over the line," says Ballman. "Those are the categories that bullies tend to latch onto. They will also sometimes pick on someone in an emotional situation, someone in a delicate mental state and can torment them to death. You see how bullying affects kids and it happens in the workplace—people can become suicidal or have a nervous breakdown." However, even if an employee believes he or she is being bullied or harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker or they are in a "hostile work environment," they may not have a California labor law claim.
"If we don't accept bullying in schools, why is it acceptable at work?" says Ballman. When is bullying "unacceptable" and how do you determine whether you have a claim and what should you do about it? Ballman advises the following:
One statement I hear of too much is "I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why." This is a frequent mistake. The United States Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and give the employer the opportunity to fix the situation. If you did not avail yourself of the employer's policy before quitting, you are giving up your right to sue for a violation.
Appropriate remedies may be to discipline or warn the harasser, to move the harasser, under some circumstances to move the victim, to do training, or in extreme cases, to terminate the harasser. But they don't have to take any action at all. They only have a duty to maintain a safe workplace. You might still have to work with the harasser.
What to put in the report:
General harassment, hostile environment, bullying and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. So before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it "FORMAL COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT" or "FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RELIGIOUS HARASSMENT," or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.
If you are harassed or are in a hostile work environment, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Report it to the employer and give them a chance to address the situation. If they allow the harassment to continue or if they retaliate, contact an employment attorney to discuss your legal options.
Here are some tips from Ms. Ballman:
a. Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. Sometimes, the fear is justified. But it is the employer's duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
b. Employers will usually take accusations of this type of conduct seriously. Once they are on notice, they will be held liable if they allow it to continue, and they know it. And most employers know that this behavior is disruptive, has nothing to do with making money, and can adversely affect morale. Even if the employer takes no action, by reporting their inaction to the EEOC or your state agency, you have put these agencies on notice that this behavior is occurring. The employer will have no excuse when the harasser does it to the next employee. And in some cases, you may have a remedy.
c. While a long letter stating that your supervisor is incompetent or a jerk can and should get you fired, the formal complaint addressing illegal behavior should get a serious response.
d. While bullying isn't illegal, harassment due to race, age, sex, national origin, disability, color and religion are illegal.
e. If the bully is targeting certain age, sex, ethnic or other groups, they've probably crossed over into illegal harassment.
f. Bullies are a huge drain on corporate time and assets. Employers should adopt zero tolerance policies regarding bullies.
If you or a loved one have suffered losses in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to an employment law lawyer who may evaluate your California Labor Law claim at no cost or obligation.
or call 1-888-580-0698
Posted by ChrisRo
What if you work for a state agency and they're the ones who are harassing? HR & labor board directors condone the behavior and in fact have made harassing comments themselves & the union has failed to do their job? Nobody wants to represent you in a legal case because it's the state!
Posted by Paul
In my situation, I would record and detail everything for evidence against the person and the company. Stand up for yourself against these bullies when others are afraid. Let the company be accountable for those they hire. If the company does not oblige, take it to the state labor department immediately because there is a statute of limitations. Bullies are just people with messed up personal lives, who tried to take down others in the workplace. Keep on living your life and smile. That will piss off the bully more.
Posted by sean l howard
I work as a Director for a vendor providing food service to an HOA with a restaurant. A Homeowner has made my life a living hell with nasty comments, letters, emails, glares, and fist pounding on the wall outside of my office. The company I work for has investigated with little resolve as the HOA Board if Directors will not act to curb the harassment. The Homeowner has gone to extreme measures to slander me in emails shared with the Board of Directors. As a vendor we are prepared to to stop all services we provide to this Homeowner with any recourse being the responsibility of the Association; I.e. loss of revenue / fees. As an individual I would like to file a restraining order and suit against the Homeowner. Individual Board members and the Association could also be liable for their inability to act perpetuating a hostile work environment. What help can you offer me? It's a unique situation.
Posted by Jay
This is just great. I'm a white, middle-aged male and I'm being bullied on a daily basis. The bully is very clever about it. But it's wrecking me. Can't sleep. Can't think. Nobody to talk to. And from the above, apparently no protection because I'm not in the right category. Tell me that isn't racism and sexism.
This country sucks.
Posted by Jean
I work at a program where 3 agencies are working collaboratively. One of the agency supervisors responds to any emails that questions her with a reflexive nasty response.
She has me so fed up that I have now responded to her nasty email with my own; which as my Lead pointed out blurs my original question because now the focus is on my response rather than the original question.
What is my right as an employee when I get this nasty response from the agency supervisor?
Posted by JR
I just started a new job as a server in a restaurant, where, by the way, all the servers are female. The general manager, a man, seemed very professional in my interviews. However since a couple days after starting, I have noticed very unfair treatment upon myself, by the GM, as well as many of the other girls. And the GM makes it seem completely allowed, because "I'm new". These other girls are extremely flirtacious with him, and are very indilligent. They are also all very much younger than I am. Anyway, the GM is constantly critiqueing me way more harshly than anyone else, constantly does this in front of everyone including customers, and when I am there I take on so many more duties than the whole serving team, who are not professionally superiors. They are entry level employees like myself. All of this has frustrated me, and I have felt bullied throughout my employment. I have had to sneak to the restroom to cry on two occasions, and even have to sneak to use the bathroom. However what I was told today was really what has me convinced that I'm definitely being harassed.
My GM asked me to sit with him at a table at the end of my shift in order to "critique" my performance after a very hard, albeit nervewracking, emotional day at work. I worked very hard today, and completed all assignments. Anyway, he began to explain that I looked "sad" and that he wants to feel comfortable enough to crituque me at any point in time. He stated how my sensitivity is a weakness and that I should basically learn to tolerate all the abusive "critique" from the other girls and himself. Worst of all he told me, "I'm not saying that you should put on some makeup, because we can't tell you that. But I don't know. Sometimes you look like you just rolled out of bed. I mean, put on a little lip gloss or something." To which I responded, "I really don't understand those statements. And to be honest they are offensive. I understand the concept of professional presentability, but my hair is combed, teeth brushed, and of course I shower every day." To which he replied, "Well that's questionable. I'm not there with you. So..."
I said, "I have never had a manager tell me I looked unpresentable without makeup or lip gloss before." He shrugged it off and said, "Look, let's not make a big thing of this. Here's an example. Come here Crystal, (name of said server is fictional in this statement) I want (me) to see what I mean. I interrupted saying, "Please, it's ok. Please don't involve the team. This is already humiliating." And he said, "Look I'll have (a female manager) call you later to let you know what I mean. From a girl's perspective."
Meanwhile, and throughout the entire degradation, he has the widest smile on his face, almost laughing, uber amused by my humility and his own tactless opinion of my face. Please respond someone. I have been crying at home now on & off all day.
I turned down two other jobs for this one, have a 3 yr. old daughter, and support my minor sister as well, on my own and cannot afford to just quit. But I feel as though I am walking on eggshells at work, the environment is definitely hostile, and I feel as though I am being picked on because I am diligent instead of flirtacious. How can one even function or conduct oneself in such a "workplace"? I am looking for a new job after today. But in the meantime, can someone please offer some advice?
Posted by HKS
I've been harassed for years by my immediate supervisor. Name calling, belittling, confrontational and inappropriate touching. I reported the harassment and nothing was done about it. I was fed up with the immature behavior and wrote a formal letter that went to the manager. I was brought in then threatened to be writen up for the letter (email) that I submitted. Information and letter was brought to the legal department and a firm was contracted to investigate the harrasment. Still awaiting word from the employer and seeking legal assistance. I've done my due diligence and have learned that everything including as much detail as possible should be documented daily. My supervisor has low self esteem and boundary issues as described by my employer. Odd question but does he have legal protection which allows him to harass an employee?
Posted by DD
My boyfriend and I work for the same company and he is being harassed with sexual comments by my female boss for over 2 years and she continues to do it. He has told her it is unwanted and I have complained to HR and they did not investigate any of the harassment that she is doing to him but only what pertains to me and they are trying to say that the harassment that she did to me is old stuff and why didn't I come to them sooner. My boyfriend has told her that I do not approve of her inappropriate behavior and she has told him that I better learn to deal with it because it will be bad for me if I don't. Is there a statue of limitation on Sexual harassment, and even if it's still continuing? Should we both be seeking legal advise?
Posted by SJ
There is a older woman at my job who constantly is loud, obnoxious and unprofessional. Although it is not illegal to be annoying, it is not right for someone to bully and harass others, just because that's their "personality." She invades a person's private space, forces you to speak to her and wont walk away until you do, and will take it personal if you try and ignore her (when you are just trying to remain professional). Once she takes something personal she will continue to "poke" at you by saying comments under her breath, try and be even louder around you and just act very immaturely creating a tense work environment. I know that bullying is not illegal, and the fact that she is trying to indirectly be a bully (so that she can remain seen as a victim and not an aggressor), I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have filed an incident report for reports of harassment and bullying. Another employee filed an incident report for her bullying and racial slurs. However, nothing has happened to this woman in terms of disciplinary action. I have remained professional up to the point where I spoke up for myself and told her to leave me alone and not talk to me. It all seems so childish, bc it is. However, the fact that she keeps coming around me and saying obnoxious comments for everyone to hear and disrupting my work space (which is a good distance from where her desk is located) is now a problem. I do not know what to do. When I actually do meet my wits end and complain about her actions, management treats me as if I am being troublesome. I know to remain professional, but could this type of behavior continue to be allowed and overlooked??
Posted by Eric Emal
I work in a treatment center and have been repremanded and told I may be fired for a vibe that I give off. I have done nothing wrong or said anything derogatory to anyone ever. I was forced to go to each of my coworkers and explain that if I have made them uncomfortable with a vibe I give off that I was sorry.
I work hard and have a strong job ethic. All my co- workers asked me why was I asked to do this?
Can I really be fired for a Vibe I give off?
Posted by Hopeless
I am a woman over 50 who just started a new job 3 weeks ago and on the days that my employer has been in the office, I go home crying and it is making me very depressed and affecting my self esteem and sense of worthiness. He is very demeaning to me and my co-worker who is also over 50. He bully's and intimidates us and is frequently reminding us how stupid or incompetent he thinks we are using demeaning remarks. When we do not understand what he is trying to tell us or we do something wrong because his lack of proper training and communication, he says things to us like, you've just been demoted to 1st grade, or 2nd grade. We hear this pretty much every day. We have never been elevated to anything past second grade in his bully comments. Or he tells us to shut up all the time or stop talking when we are in the middle of asking him a question on a procedure. When we ask for clarification on things, he makes demeaning comments inferring that we are stupid, because somewhere in a previous conversation he already explained these things to us. He makes fun of us when we write a note down in our instruction books more than once, again implying that we are stupid. Yet, he complains if we do not take notes. When he makes mistakes he goes out of his way to prove himself right and us wrong. We both are college graduates and have had very successful careers in our lives. In his mind, women are not equal to him on any level, and he makes it a point of reiterating that to us over and over again using his x-girlfriend as the example. We have both come to the conclusion he does not like women and because of his past experiences in his relationships, he is taking out his rage and frustration on us which affects us negatively on a daily basis. For me is is affecting my health and mental status. Every day he robs me of all the joy I had before he came in, and replaces it with a sense of unworthiness, hopelessness and despair. At my age, jobs are not easy to come by and so I fear I will be forever tormented by him as long as I remain in his employ. I have asked him to please stop many times, but he keeps on doing it. I have told him this hurts me tremendously and am only trying to do a good job for him, but all of my requests have fallen on deaf ears as have my co-workers.
Also, we have witnessed how he speaks to his other employees who are Mexican and work in his factory and he is even more cruel to them. He has zero tolerance for any kind of imperfection if one is a woman or Mexican. His other white male business associates are treated with respect. He calls the Mexicans stupid and uneducated and when they complain that he is not nice to them, he retaliates. One Mexican woman is on the chopping block right now because she complained to him that he is not nice to her, so now he is looking to replace her. He said, I have given her enough compliments as if this should appease her, yet she is still bullied by him as we are. Last week his male Mexican warehouse worker was docked a days pay because he did not get a overnight package shipped out on time, so our employer called him while we were sitting there in the office, and told him he was not allowed to work on Monday and to stay home. When we have spoken to this worker on the phone, he appears to always be in fear and seems quite scared of our employer. My co-worker and I are not Mexican we are white like our employer but it bothers us tremendously to see how he speaks to them and to us. And these employees have been putting up with this for many years because they need their jobs and probably do not even know they have any rights to speak up.
When we have confronted our employer, he will try to talk his way out of it and say we are doing a good job, and then 10 minutes later demean us all over again. So whatever we said to him went in one ear and right out the other. He seems to think he has the right to do this and is not accountable to anyone for his actions. He has no company policy on harassment that we know of because we were not given anything like that, nor were we given handbook or anything about any type of company policy. I am wondering what our recourse is. This employer is clearly out of control and violating the law.
Posted by Lisa
I am a property manager at a 150 unit community. I have been managing for nearly 20 years. There is also a co-manager working with me who is all of 22 years old and she is always telling me what to do and if she doesn't get her way, she throws a huge temper tantrum and says very mean and hurtful things to me. Her mom works at our corporate with our supervisor and owner managing a 300 unit community so she thinks her sh*t doesn't stink and that everyone should bow down to her. If she comes in in the morning in a bad mood, then that means at any minute I am going to get yelled at and accused of lying about certain things which I am not. Recently, she accidentally emailed me a letter she had just typed up and it said horrible and discriminating things about me. When I read it I was horrified. Well, I have emailed my supervisor several times about this and she will not answer me about whether or not this little girl is going to have any ramifications for what she has done to me. This is called "a hostile environment in the work place," and is illegal! I am going to wait a couple of more days to see if my supervisor takes any actions against "Miss Princess" or not. If not, I am going to hire an employment lawyer and take them to the bank!!
Posted by babychoi
I am being harassed and bullied at work. It has been going on for over 1 year now - unfair treatment, unfair workload, snide remarks, intimidation - I have brought this up to my manager time and time again. For over 1 year. Now I am physically sick. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. It has overlapped into my home life, where I am stressed and have anxiety over work. At work, I am given more and more and more work to do. I come into work every day. I am only allotted a certain number of hours for PTO, while others don't even have to come to work. I am treated like an animal, like a slave. Because I told my manager that my shoulder is hurting me due to my ergonomically incorrect workspace set up, insufficient lighting, uneven monitors (I work with 2 monitors at a time) and a chair that is not comfortable for sitting in 8 hours straight, I am getting intimidating emails.
I am going to kill myself. Because it's not going to stop.
Posted by Aziza Belen
I am being bullied by my boss. She calls it "guidance" and "mentoring" when she yells at me and tells me that I am not allowed to speak to a member of my team because I have allowed this team member to co-lead my project--after she suggested that we co-lead it. She gives me conflicting instructions and then gets angry with me when I don't know what to do.
I have told her boss about it, but regardless of what SHE does, I'm getting the f* out of this place. The sad and scary part? I work at a hospital.
Posted by JoannaM.
My daughter has been bullied by her school peers, teachers and principals. I called the school several times and made comments that these kids are acting, "ghetto". The school principal engaged in my anger against these teens and agreed with me stating, "Yes so are the parents". He still did nothing about it. In December of last year a girl grabbed my daughter by her neck and slammed her against the wall. Shortly after a group of kids ran after my daughter as she ran to the cafeteria crying as they threw food at her and called her names. I had it then. I called the police and had them go to the school as I was there also with the school principal and vice principal. The officer was not concerned about anything we explained to him and obviously because he was taking the word of a school principal and vice principal, he refused to do anything or even take a report and stated, "I'm gonna let them handle it". I complained that they had 4 months to handle it, and they didn't. The officer still showed no concern and left. The principal and vice principal showed satisfaction with their grin on their face. It was then that I knew, they were up to something. Shortly after, my daughter began being suspended for anything and everything. If she spoke against someone who bullied her, it was HER who was suspended. They did this till she was up for expulsion. I didn't know this until a mother of another student called and told me that the principal told her that my daughter was being kicked out of school. My daughters confidentiality rights were violated. When I complained about it to the superintendent, he refused to do anything and stated, "well what do you want me to do about it". I told him he knows the disciplinary procedures for such misconduct. He rolled his eyes and refuses to listen. I became upset and raised my voice when he rose and asked me to leave his office. I did. During the board meeting. I was asked if I had gotten a copy of all the paperwork. I said yes but not from the mail. Mr. Curry lied and said he had a paper that I signed for it. I never signed for it to I asked him to provide this paper. The board woman to protect him stated that, he just didnt have it in front of him at the moment. They then asked if my daughter had completed homework. Mr. Curry rushed to answer that she had only completed one assignment. I explained that my daughter completed all her assignments and that I had the office official sign what we turned in because we knew he would lie. He then rudely stated that this meeting was over and that they didn't have to take this. When I mentioned my daughters confidentiality rights being violated, they brushed that off as well. All of them protected each other. Too many incidents to mention. As for staff officials bullying my daughter. A teacher announced to the entire class that my daughter made her feel uncomfortable the way she touched her. Once my daughter entered the class the students began calling my daughter, "Dike", and "ratchet", and laughing at her. I seen this teacher at a Target store. A day later she told students that I tried to confront her. Which never happened. Students were messaging my other daughter on FB telling her that the principal was telling everyone that my daughter was expelled. We wonder why children have no morals in the schools. When you have a superintendent, principal, and vice principal who don't have morals running it, what would one expect. My daughter was expelled and sent to a bad school where gang member kids attend. The bullying continues and the teachers watch students throw pens at my daughter and hit her in the face. The teacher allows students to steal from her back pack, mock her stuttering, and laugh at her in class. In a meeting, the teacher stated, "This is the first im hearing about this". I confronted that statement and asked how is it she cant see or hear all of this going on in a little class room to the point that my daughter wanted to hurt herself and ended up in a mental hospital because of this. She continued to claim, she knew nothing. My daughter took a weapon to school for protection because a kid said his three sisters wee going to jump her. Recently my 19 year old daughter called to report an incident and the principal asked, as the other did, "and what do you want me to do about it". My daughter told him, " I want you to protect her, do your job, that's what I want you to do". He then stated, "Goodbye", and hung up on her. We have no help. No one to turn to. So I ask, what do we do? It happens everyday. It happened yesterday, and will continue because, the school doesn't care!
Posted by Rachele Piazza
I have been employed with my current employer for 3 yrs now; 2 months in to my employment I began being harassed by my co-worker who is a 10 yr employee along with the majority of the employees who also have been there for many years. I began being harassed by employees who I did not work with nor did I know, Each time I reported it to the manager I was told the harasser did not know what I was talking about or the harasser was going through a lot of personally issues at home. It became apparent the manager was making excuses for her or trying to justify the behavior. I then reported it to HR which I realized the HR Manager was in support of the employees as I was told I was not going to change the culture of the company. At this time I felt I was alone with no support from HR and Management as I began to see the sister-brotherhood of the company. I learned there are a hand full of others who were harassed by the same employees but nothing was done so they remain silent.
Initially I focused on the harassment from the employees but the real issue is Management and HR as they knowing do nothing to acknowledge there is a problem with harassment and are more concerned about protecting the employees. There is a serious issue with confidentially as well as Management does not comply with company policy, creating more hostility with employees and making the work place worse. This should be a violating of code & conduct on company policy to provide a safe harass free environment.
Posted by KT
I am being bullied by my subordinate. She has had problems with her former coworkers and had to be transfered to my department. She constantly breaks all California state law rules for hourly employees and then when I address it (by asking to to not do it anymore) she takes a fit. She then has started spreading rumors about me. She has told lies and tells people that I am mean to her. Now upper management and HR knows what she is like since she has had problems with many people. However, she plays the victim act so well. She has now gotten a lot of people to dislike me. I don't care if they like or dislike me. All I care about is that they work with me professionally. But they don't. The do not share information and go around me. I cannot get me job done. She tried to transfer to another group. But the hiring manager told me that her group does not like her and asked her not to hire her. So, it seems that I am stuck with her. She has turned alot of people against me and I have not done anything to her. She has done this to others.
Posted by Marina
I have been working for a roofing company and one top supervisors always addresses his administrative assistant with the B word and the F word apparently she seems to think that because this is a construction industry this is ok. I have been with this company for a few months. I really need this job to pay my living expenses but this really bothers me. He makes her cry at times. I have mentioned it several times to the Office manager and she says "That's just the way he is" Is there nothing to do about this or just tolerate it?
Posted by Melissa Hurtado
I am a victim of workplace bullying at a law enforcement agency. I succumb to a workers compensation claim due to the anxiety that it caused. I would like to add that I advise some of you to be careful what you tell your psychologist because the system is corrupt. You will be labeled delusional. Paranoid just to name a few. I am also bullied in my community. Yes, I said it in the community. You can look it up. There are many names to this phenomenon such as organized stalking, gang stalking or google targeted individual. My experience with the doctors and mental health system has been a journey. Now I have to try to clear my name as I have been set up to look like an insane person. Some of you sound like what I went through at work. Contact me if you like email@example.com
Posted by PESH
There is a woman here who is a friend of someone I had a run in with a few years ago. She has spent the day here in the office telling everyone about the run in. She will not confront me with it and I do not know if I should confront her or just leave well enough alone. I sit here in my cubicle and do my work. I expect to be left alone by her because my work has nothing to do with her. What should I do?
Posted by Inesse Diehr
I have been bullied at the workplace by associates neighboring in offices next door.
This bullying has to stop.
They have come so far as to try and make it my problem that they are hateful and use their dogs to attack innocent bystanders.
I began to see the harassment when I went over to the neighbors office and introduced myself. She had a rabid dog who was ready for attack, showing her teeth. It was not a good environment to be dealing with others.
She then started making assaults about my dog and following me around and stalking me for many miles to find out where I stayed at night.
Because she had been stalking me for some time now, I realized that it was serious when she came into the store where I was shopping (which is many miles out of the way for her to go) and
made up an excuse that she was just grabbing lunch (when in fact she only bought one apple) and then started looking me up and down and also looking at my dog as well. She started to tell me that her dog had a cancerous tumor on her heart and that the dog was a rescue dog and the dog had always had to fight for anything she had. Her story was really about her. It was about her and her dog, not about just her dog. I saw that she is excessively overweight and unnaturally so. It was such that she obviously was the one who had cancer. The dog was merely reflecting her bad lifestyle of gluttony and abuse.
She has threatened to sue the Landlords if they don't seek to terminate my lease. And so they have sought to terminate the lease with me by offering to pay me $1000 extra to move.
It is clear that if I just leave then I am saying that its okay for her to bully and that's not okay.
And that is why I am NOT going to leave.
Now I hope more people stick up for themselves. That way our world will be better. Thanks for reading. Peace.
Posted by Sean dolph
I have been threatened with bodily harm People wrote nasty comments on the board at work I've been laughed at been told I'm a liar need to do work that I wasn't supposed to do because of Workmen's Comp. claim And just overall overall Being bullied and discrimination of who I am Which is led me to severe severe anxiety and depression which I am seeing a psychologist and therapist for
Posted by BJP
If I have been diagnosed with major depression, and have been written up for being sad, is this a violation? If I have FMLA for my depression, and still get in trouble for being sad, is my employer in violation of the law?
LawyersandSettlements.com is an online news and information site for the general public and legal community. As a legal news resource, we have emerged as an independent & trusted voice. We provide detailed and quality information on various lawsuits filed including Employment Law Cases.