Back in February, the state of Hawaii introduced a bill that, had it passed, would have made workplace bullying an occupational safety violation. Ultimately that meant that Senate Bill 2487 proposed to make victims of workplace bullying and harassment eligible for workers’ compensation.
We’re in a time when jobs are hard to come by and where workers are asked (and expected, really) to take on more workplace responsibilities for less money. The economics of survival are more difficult than ever before to navigate, and employers have more leverage over their employees -and they fully realize it. There is stiff competition between co-workers to retain jobs in light of frequent layoffs, business closures, and high unemployment rates. In light of all these circumstances, it’s not hard to imagine that the workplace could become more stressful overall and employees could feel more pressure than is fair.
According to a Zogby International survey conducted in 2007, 49% of U.S. workers have been bullied at the office or repeatedly mistreated in a way that affects their health. Around 45% of those bullied at work suffer stress-related health problems, including heart problems, anxiety, suppressed immune systems, and even PTSD. Being bullied can affect an employee’s workplace environment to the extent that accidents occur on the job.
How do you know if you are (or have been) bullied, though? According to a Forbes article, there are ten solid signs:
- Work means misery:
You are anxious or nauseous frequently right before the start of your workweek.
- Constant criticism:
You have to live up to a different standard than other employees and/or there is an endless flow of criticism from your boss or co-worker despite your solid performance.
If you’re frequently screamed at, insulted, or humiliated (especially in front of others), you are being bullied.
- A running tab of your errors:
Is your boss or co-worker keeping your mistakes at the forefront of your workplace relationship with them? Do you hear about it often with no context? Are you falsely accused of errors you didn’t commit?
- Gossip and lies:
This old playground tactic is used in some workplaces, too. It was a sly act of bullying back then, and it’s one now.
- You are excluded:
If you’re being singled out and isolated either socially or physically, you are likely being bullied, according to experts. This could be anything from being repeatedly left out of lunches and meetings to a workspace separate from others entirely.
- You need more mental health days than average:
If you’re using all your personal or sick time just to get away from the pressure of your workplace, it could be because you’re bullied while there. Other signs are feeling lifeless on your days off or a constant obsessing about work, even when you’re not there.
A coworker or boss tries to tank your performance in a myriad of ways.
- Impossible schedule:
Constant changes on the fly, meetings scheduled consistently in a way that interferes with your personal life and pursuits, not allowing mandated breaks and vacations earned are all means of bullying.
- Theft of your work:
Your boss or a co-worker co-opts the credit on all your hard work.
While there are no current laws on the books that deal with workplace bullying specifically, there are cases where mental health and stress-related work injuries are actionable under current workers’ compensation law. In Georgia, such injuries must be preceded by physical injury (most states are this way). If you are unsure as to whether or not your mental health or stress injuries entitle you to workers’ comp benefits, then call Moebes Law and discuss your case with a knowledgeable Georgia workers’ compensation attorney.