Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Be More Specific Than Calling It "Bullying"

When people become a target at work, one of the first words that may cross their mind to describe their mistreatment is "bullying." The only problem with that is that workplace bullying really isn't legislated at this time. A number of states (I believe about 13) have anti-bullying legislation in the pipeline. However, none of the bills have been passed into law.

As African Americans, this doesn't really create a problem for us because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has clear language in it that prohibits what we could call "bullying behavior" against protected classes of people. The actions of racist bullies, which amounts to creating a hostile and offensive work environment for a coworker and to harassing a coworker, falls under discrimination. Discrimination includes not only harassment, but also retaliation. Harassment includes being subjected to a hostile and offensive work environment. But, the mistreatment can't be minor or isolated. The mistreatment must rise to the standard that it has changed your work environment in a negative manner and made it nearly impossible for you to do your job.

If you've become the target of one or more bullies a.k.a. workplace racists, don't focus on calling the actions bullying. Stick to the terminology that exists in Federal law and that has been designed to protect you. So, you want to talk about a hostile work environment and describe what is happening, such as being ignored, when you speak at meetings, being humiliated in front of coworkers, being subjected to threats and job intimidation, etc.

The point is, you want to use specific language that is relevant to the circumstances in your case. Leave the blanket statements to your employer!

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