Is workplace bullying the same as harassment?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2022 | Employment Law |

Workplace harassment can create a hostile work environment that disrupts your ability to work and may make you afraid to go to the office every day.

Bullying is also disruptive behavior that hurts your feelings and negatively affects your ability to work. You may feel that the work environment has become hostile as a result. While bullying has no place in the workplace, Healthline explains that harassment is illegal, but bullying is not.

What do workplace bullying and harassment have in common?

Bullying and harassment against you in the workplace can take similar forms:

  • Sabotaging your work or wrongfully assigning blame to you
  • Abusing you verbally by insulting or mocking you, humiliating you, gossiping about you behind your back or making jokes at your expense
  • Intimidating you with threats of a professional or personal nature
  • Invading your privacy
  • Spying on you
  • Excluding you socially within the workplace

When does bullying rise to the level of workplace harassment?

The law protects people who are likely to receive mistreatment from co-workers on the basis of certain attributes. If the jokes, abuse or threats against you relate to a protected status, such as your age, race, religion or a disability that you have, then the treatment rises to the level of workplace harassment.

However, even if the bullying you are receiving does not meet the legal definition of harassment, that does not mean that you just have to accept it. Report the behavior to a supervisor or human resources manager. Even if workplace bullying is not against the law, your employer may have a policy against it. Under that policy, the person bullying you may face consequences for his or her actions.