When you were young, you were likely told that bullying ceases to be a problem when you become an adult. Unfortunately, however, some workplace cultures are rife with hazing and bullying behavior. While bullying is not illegal for adults, it can cross the line into illegality in some situations. If you are experiencing problematic bullying, hazing, or harassment at your job, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler may be able to provide you with some guidance.
What is hazing in the workplace?
Hazing in the workplace may range from teasing and horseplay to more dangerous behaviors. Some examples might include the following:
- Sexual harassment
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Hazing or workplace bullying is generally defined as abusive behavior by one or more people who target a person or a group of people. It can include verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, or intentional interference with your ability to get your work done.
Workplace hazing laws
Bullying in the workplace is not illegal. Most people have had to deal with a boss who was a bully at some point in time. However, this type of behavior can cross the line into illegality in certain situations.
If the workplace bully routinely targets members of a protected group because of a protected characteristic such as race, color, gender, or others, the behavior may be illegal under state and federal anti-discrimination laws. When the behavior crosses the line to assaults or the intentional infliction of emotional distress, it may also have additional criminal or civil consequences.
Consequences of workplace hazing
Depending on the type of behavior and the targets, there are several potential consequences of workplace hazing or bullying. If the victims are targeted because of their protected characteristics, the victims may be able to file anti-discrimination complaints with the EEOC if the employers have not taken steps to correct the problem. If the behavior includes assaults, the perpetrators may also be criminally liable for their actions. Intentional infiction of emotional distress may also form the basis of a tort lawsuit.
Is hazing in the workplace illegal?
Workplace hazing is not illegal by itself unless it crosses the line into illegal behavior as described above. If you believe that you have been bullied at work on the basis of your protected status, contact Swartz Swidler for guidance on what you might do.