Bullying Is Harassment

We attend trainings on harassment and discrimination to bring forth awareness about how and how not to act towards one another at work. Even with recent media attention on bullying, some still consider it a non-issue in the workplace. However, California doesn’t agree. Effective January 1, 2015, California’s Anti-Bullying Training Requirements (A.B. 2053) are being mandated for employers of 50 or more and require anti-bullying training be added to the training curriculum of an organization’s workforce. This training is required to be delivered every two years under the mandated curriculum of supervisory personnel training regarding harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace.

Under the California regulation, anti-bullying falls under the umbrella of “abusive conduct,” which is defined as follows:

…the conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

Time will further refine this regulation and best practices in greater detail as companies respond to allegations of bullying. Until such time, employers may want to develop policies that ensure a first offense of abusive conduct — unless intentional and gross — is met with specific disciplinary and training actions similar to those in place for any other discriminatory or harassing behavior in the workplace.

Common acts labeled as bullying are:

  • Intentional disregard of general instructions or guidance.
  • Physical intention to block or bump into another.
  • Sabotage.
  • Teasing, gossiping, or demeaning comments or actions (including cyberbullying).
  • Verbal intimidation and rude comments.
  • Withholding information that another person needs to perform his or her duties.

Every worker deserves to work in a comfortable and safe environment that promotes productivity and welcomes successful performance. Kudos to California for setting the pace for employers to educate supervisors on how to identify and hold workers accountable for treating one another with mutual respect.

About Suzanne Fahl, SPHR

Having worked within the field of human resources for nearly three decades, Suzanne has held key roles across the nation in a variety of industries and states, including California and Illinois. Over the past 10 years Suzanne has worked with more than 100 clients and facilitated hundreds of training and planning sessions, coaching leaders, HR professionals, and general management in strategic alignment of HR practices to business objectives and goals. Suzanne’s certifications are SPHR, SHRM-SPC, HRMC, and Change Management. Additionally, Suzanne has held positions as an HR leader, business partner, trainer, and analyst. Currently, she holds the role of HR Editor with ThinkHR.