As many in Dayton know, bullying doesn’t just happen among kids on the schoolyard. It’s surprisingly common in many workplaces throughout Ohio and the country. According to a study, nearly 75% of employees have been the target or witness of bullying in their workplace.
Workplace bullying includes abusive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening words or actions against a coworker or subordinate. It’s often repeated, enduring and pervasive, and it escalates worse and worse. Victims are usually singled out because they lack power in the workplace or because they don’t “fit in” among the crowd for whatever reason.
Clearly, nobody deserves to be bullied. However, if the harassment is due to the victim’s gender, race, religion, national origin, age or disability, the abuse is not only wrong, it can also be illegal in the workplace. Harassment of this nature that is severe enough to cause a hostile work environment is specifically prohibited by the law.
This harassment can include, for example, any of the following and more:
- Slurs, derogatory remarks and jokes
- Displaying offensive symbols, objects, images or messages
- Threats or intimidation
- Fondling or seeking sexual favors
However, not everything is automatically illegal. The law doesn’t ban all simple teasing, unsavory comments and non-serious isolated incidents. But when the harassment is severe enough to create a hostile work environment or discriminatorily impacts the victim — such as by demoting or firing them — then the conduct is considered illegal.
Abuse can happen anywhere. Furthermore, bullies and illegal harassers may include not only a victim’s supervisors and coworkers but also their clients and customers. It’s the duty of employers (and should also be the responsibility of everyone concerned) to watch out for harassment and discrimination and to put an end to it.
If you have been the victim of unlawful harassment or have been suffering in a hostile work environment, it’s important that you speak to a compassionate and experienced Dayton attorney who can help protect your rights and present your legal options under Ohio and federal law.