Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying

August 07, 2020

We receive many calls from employees who are concerned about bullying, verbal abuse, and general negative conduct at work which they will often term “harassment” or a “hostile work environment.” Unfortunately, a lot of this conduct, while horrible, is not actually illegal. If you have a verbally abusive boss who bullies you or treats you poorly at work, there may not be much you can do from a legal standpoint. The law in California protects against harassment based on someone’s protected status only, and the groups that are protected in California are race, sex, age, national origin, disability (including pregnancy), medical condition, gender identity/expression, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, or need for medical leave to care for your own or a family members medical condition.

If you are being harassed or bullied because you are in one of these groups, that is illegal, but you do need some evidence to connect the poor treatment with your protected group status (for example, gendered comments or racial slurs). On the other hand, if you are being targeted for harassing or hostile conduct, but it is not because of your membership in a protected group (or you have no evidence that it is because you are in a protected group), there is not much you can do legally. We empathize with employees in these situations, but unfortunately the laws currently in place do not make bullying illegal and we hear about many “equal opportunity” harassers who are miserable to work with and perhaps doing damage to the company they serve, but are not technically violating the law.

For more about bullying and the law, see our article “The Equal Opportunity Bully” here:

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