The issue of bullying is currently a hot topic in the United States, and it’s not just schoolchildren who are the targets, or offenders. More and more advocacy and law enforcement agencies around the country are receiving inquiries from folks wondering if bullying and/or harassment is a legal cause of action.
According to a recent article in The Employment Discrimination Report, in a recent New York federal court case, the pro se plaintiff, a college lecturer, attempted to bring an action “regarding the bullying and harassment by (his department’s) current Chair.” He told the Court “that he was not alleging that his Chair’s hostility was motivated by his race, sex, age, or national origin.” The federal court held that:
“Bullying and harassment have no place in the workplace, but unless they are motivated by the victim’s membership in a protected class, they do not provide the basis for an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 (“Title VII”), and any complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) based on them does not constitute “protected activity” under Title VII.”
The Court went on to say:
“Victims of non-discriminatory bullying at the workplace, like those treated unfairly for reasons other than their membership in a protected class, must look outside Title VII to secure what may be their fair due. The Court does not condone bullying, but it cannot read Title VII to protect its victims unless the bullying reflects discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
So what is an employee to do when he/she believes she is being subjected to bullying behavior? How can an employer protect itself against legal action while maintaining a safe, professional working environment?
The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with referrals to competent and insured labor law attorneys who represent employees and/or employers. Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.