Bullying is repeated emotional, verbal and physical mistreatment that jeopardizes your health, your career, your job. It is behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group and therefore should not be tolerated.
It is important not to be afraid to complain to the company or even to take legal action. A person needs to stand up for him/herself, and must do it immediately. The very first thing that one can do in all of these cases is to meet with an employment lawyer who can counsel you through your options and what steps you may wish to take to protect your legal rights.
In his recent article published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Employment Lawyer, Daniel Lublin answers the question about what can be done to prove workplace bullying and which steps should be taken if one occurs.
- Document everything in as much detail as possible in a journal with dates, times and places and the specific statements and comments. You should document your previous and future complaints to your boss and what his exact responses were.
- If your company has a policy addressing harassment and bullying, which includes specific details on how to file a complaint and what will occur once it is filed, read the policy carefully and follow it exactly. Once a complaint under a formal policy is filed, the company has a legal obligation to investigate your concerns and determine if you are being bullied or harassed and it must take steps to stop it. On the other hand, if your company does not have such a policy, it still has a legal obligation to investigate your concerns and attempt to remedy any inappropriate behaviour, but it can only do so if it is made aware of your situation. What you can do in such a situation is draft a memo to human resources or a senior officer of the company summarizing what is occurring at work and requesting that the company intervene to prevent it. If they fail to act, it will form an additional basis for future legal action against the company.
- Your physician may even order you to stay away from work if the situation is causing you stress and anxiety, which may have developed an illness that requires medical attention or justifies some time off from work in order to recover.
- If you have been bullied or harassed based on any of the protected human rights grounds in Canada, such as age, race, religion or disability, among other personal characteristics, then you are specifically protected under human rights laws, which means you can take legal action against the bullies for the harassment and the company for not taking action to prevent it.
- If harassment and bullying are unrelated to any human rights grounds, you may also be able to take legal action in the courts for constructive dismissal and the infliction of mental distress. In these situations, you must show that the behaviour is intolerable and that you should not be expected to persevere in the workplace environment. You can the resign and demand that the company pay you compensation for lost wages as if it effectively terminated your employment, and even damages for mental distress and possibly punitive damages, or damages for negligence if the company, once made aware of the conduct, permitted it to continue.