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Workplace harassment, bullying can make you sick

There has been much talk of late about bullying in the schools and playgrounds, but what about workplace bullying, that is not talked about nearly as much. The problem say some employment law attorneys is that in many instances it is perfectly legal to harass or bully an employee - as long as it is not discriminatory. Seems like a rather fine line but some Pennsylvania legislatures want to enact laws that make workplace harassment illegal.

One employee said she was treated so badly at a prior job that she still cries when she thinks about it. Another Philadelphia worker said that her female supervisor yelled at co-workers so often that she often found her co-workers crying and very upset. When she attempted to stand up for her co-workers she was harassed in retaliation until she eventually quit. For many workers being bullied or harassed on the job can be devastating and leave you physically and emotional sick. It can even bring on post-traumatic stress disorder in more extreme cases.

The Philadelphia employee found a website called The Workplace Bullying Institute where she learned she was the victim of bullying simply because she was made to feel miserable, humiliated and threatened. Stealing a co-workers work or sabotaging someone else's work can also be considered workplace bullying. There are laws designed to protect employees from a hostile work environment and from harassment, but in some cases these laws may not explicitly include bullying in its language.

One employment law attorney from New Jersey said that unless the bullying is discriminatory it is "almost always legal." He said his boss calls him names every day but they are not discriminatory in nature and that is why he supports legislation titled the "Healthy Workplace Act." It would ban conduct that is considered so abusive or severe that it causes emotional, physical or psychological harm. Similar legislation is also being considered in Pennsylvania and is supported by the Philadelphia employee because it offers employees better protection against workplace harassment and bullying.

If you think you may be the victim of workplace bullying or harassment, document each episode including the date, time who was involved and whether there were any witnesses. Build a case on how the behavior hurts the business and review company policies. Consult with an employment law attorney to investigate whether you have a legitimate case and learn what steps you can do to improve the conditions or hold your employer accountable for allowing such a hostile work environment to exist.

Source: CBS Philly, "Bullied At Work, Victims Fight For Laws," Chris may, Feb. 6, 2013

Our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, law firm handles a wide array of employment law matters, including hostile work environments, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

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