Is Workplace Bullying Illegal in California?

While there are various state and federal laws to protect hardworking employees in California, this doesn’t mean that workers can’t suffer harm. From employment discrimination to sexual harassment, employment law violations can permeate a workplace culture before employees recognize what’s happening, opening the door to wrongful termination and other workplace misconduct.

In California, workplace bullying is a serious issue that can have detrimental effects. Often, workplace bullying contributes to hostile work environments and harms employee morale. Understanding your employee rights in California is crucial to maintain your financial security and safeguard your physical and emotional well-being. In this blog, we’ll review common signs of workplace bullying and what steps employees can take to resolve the issue.

Understanding Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying encompasses a wide range of misconduct and is broadly defined as repeated, unwanted, and aggressive behavior that creates a hostile work environment. It can manifest in various forms, such as verbal abuse, intimidation, humiliation, or exclusion.

While workplace bullying isn’t explicitly illegal in California, certain forms of bullying and harassment are prohibited under state and federal laws. Employers are legally obligated to prevent and address workplace bullying, and employees have legal remedies available to seek relief and hold their employers accountable.

Legal Protections Against Workplace Bullying in California

While there is no specific law in California to prevent workplace bullying, there are still various legal protections in place to safeguard against misconduct in the workplace, including:

  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This federal law prohibits workplace harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  2. California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): FEHA provides additional protections beyond those offered by federal law. It prohibits harassment based on protected characteristics, including age, disability, gender (including gender identity), national origin, race, color, sex (including sexual orientation), religion, pregnancy, and pregnancy-related conditions.

Types of Workplace Bullying & Harassment

California law recognizes both physical and non-physical acts of bullying and harassment, including:

  1. Physical Bullying: This includes acts such as physical assault, unwanted touching, or other forms of physical aggression.
  2. Verbal/Non-Physical Bullying: This encompasses verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, offensive language, or derogatory comments that create a hostile work environment.

Employer's Liability and Obligations

Under California law, employers are legally obligated to provide a safe and non-hostile work environment. They are responsible for preventing and addressing workplace bullying incidents promptly. If an employer fails to take appropriate actions to prevent or address bullying, they may be held liable for their negligence or inaction.

4 Steps to Address Workplace Bullying

Employees who experience workplace bullying in California have legal recourse. They can take the following actions to protect their rights and seek relief:

  1. Internal Reporting: Employees should report bullying incidents to their immediate supervisor, human resources department, or other designated authority within the company.
  2. Documentation: Keeping a record of incidents, including dates, times, details, and any witnesses involved, can support a potential legal claim.
  3. Filing a Complaint: If internal reporting does not result in a satisfactory resolution, employees can file a complaint with relevant government agencies, such as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  4. Legal Action: In some cases, employees may pursue legal action against their employer for failing to address workplace bullying adequately. This can involve filing a lawsuit seeking damages for emotional distress, lost wages, and other related losses.

5 Signs of Workplace Bullying in CA

Common signs of workplace bullying that often go unnoticed in California work environments include:

  1. Being subject to unfair criticism
  2. Being blamed for things that aren’t your fault
  3. Being excessively monitored or micromanaged
  4. Being excluded or isolated from company activities
  5. Experiencing any form of abuse, such as gaslighting, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, or emotional abuse

Protecting Yourself from Workplace Bullying

While addressing workplace bullying is primarily the responsibility of the employer, employees can take steps to protect themselves, such as:

  • Reporting incidents promptly
  • Understanding their rights under California law
  • Seeking support from trusted colleagues or mentors
  • Familiarizing themselves with company policies and procedures
  • Maintaining open and clear communication with supervisors and HR
  • Consulting with an employment lawyer as needed to understand their legal options and ensure their rights are protected

Reliable Representation for California Employees

At Polaris Law Group, LLP, we have extensive experience representing wronged employees throughout Monterey County. For decades, Attorney Bill Marder has fought tirelessly to restore the rights of wronged employees and demand the justice they deserve in California workplaces. Whether you were wrongfully terminated or require assistance with another employment law matter, look no further than our superior employee rights advocate at Polaris Law Group.

If you’ve been mistreated by an employer, don’t wait to secure the strong representation you deserve. Call (888) 796-4010 to request a consultation with our seasoned employment lawyer in Monterey County.

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