The Personal Injury of Workplace Bullying

Our special thanks to Rachel Martin, Mia and Sophie for bringing this great article to our attention.

Original Article published and posted by: Dansker & Aspromonte Associates.

The Personal Injury of Workplace Bullying

For all but the wealthiest Americans, working isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a necessity. In fact, more than 128 million Americans held full time jobs (or worked at least 35 hours per week) in January 2019. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2017 also indicates that the average full-time employee working Monday through Friday typically put in more than 8.5 hours per day. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that some Americans work as much as 50 to 60 hours per week.

With so many people working so hard, it is easy to see why so many Americans complain of stress. What is impossible to understand is why so many American workers are also subjected to workplace bullying and personal injury.

The definition of workplace bullying

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), generally defines workplace bullying as ongoing mistreatment of one employee by at least one co-worker (in a supervisory, equivalent or subordinate role); or as abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. As such, it can also include overt or passive work sabotage, or verbal abuse. This can lead to personal injury. In fact, personal injury is a form of negligence.

Examples include:

  • Actions designed to make the victim feel alone.
  • Leaving the victim out of group activities and directly or indirectly encouraging other employees to do the same.
  • Repeatedly singling the same individual out for alleged lateness, absence or other workplace “infractions.”
  • Yelling at the victim, especially in front of other co-workers.
  • Engaging in harsh and unwarranted criticism.
  • Threatening to give or giving poor work evaluations without cause.
  • Ganging up on one person, or “mobbing.”
  • Causing personal injury to an employee.
  • Engaging in or encouraging gossip.
  • Blaming the person for making mistakes without cause.

The difference between workplace bullying and harassment

Within this context, it is important to know the difference between bullying and harassment. Both are characterized by unacceptable conduct directed towards a specific person and both happen in the workplace and can cause personal injury. However, unlike bullying, harassment is a pattern of behavior based only on the victim’s race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity/expression, or sexual preference. As such, it is against both state and federal law.

 Is personal injury from bullying common?

The WBI’s national 2017 Workplace Bullying Survey indicated more than six in 10 participants know about abusive conduct in the workplace. Alarmingly, the survey conducted in April 2017 also found that:

  • More than 14.5 million American workers said they were being bullied at the time or had experienced workplace bullying within the last year.
  • Approximately 15.4 million American workers said they had been the victims of workplace bullying before, but not in the last year.
  • Nearly 23 million American workers witnessed workplace bullying and nearly 7.5 million American workers know it has happened to others.

Based on those findings, the WBI classified workplace bullying in America as an “epidemic.”

Characteristics of perpetrators and victims

The recent WBI survey also yielded interesting information about both perpetrators and victims. In general, the survey found that the majority (70 percent) of workplace bullies were men, while only 30 percent were women. Furthermore, while male bullies tended to target women in the workplace, female bullies targeted other women.

In most cases, (63 percent), there was only one bully, and most of the bullies held senior positions. Approximately one third of the bullies were co-workers with similar job titles and duties; and only a small percentage of workplace bullies were subordinates who targeted their superiors.

In terms of race and ethnicity, the survey found that Hispanics were most often bullied in the workplace, followed by African American and White workers.

The effects of workplace bullying on victims

The effects of workplace bullying vary depending on the severity of the activity, how long the victim has been targeted, and his or her resiliency. In many cases victims can experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, which can be manifested in physical symptoms. These may include:

  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Aches and pains
  • The inability to concentrate

In an effort to avoid a hostile work environment, victims may have higher absenteeism than their peers. Away from the job, they may also have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with their families and friends.

Most victims keep quiet

Most victims also keep quiet. According to the WBI survey, 29 percent of victims didn’t say a word to anyone at work or outside of work. Slightly more than half (53 percent) of victims shared their experiences with co-workers or mentioned them to the employer.

Hardly anyone pursued formal recourse. As the survey indicates, only 13 percent of participants that identified themselves as victims said they filed formal complaints with their employers. Only 3 percent filed complaints with government agencies, and only 2 percent filed lawsuits.

Of the survey participants who filed complaints, 26 percent said their employer didn’t take any action whatsoever. Nearly half (46 percent) said their employer conducted shoddy investigations and nothing changed. Twenty-three percent reported positive changes for themselves after the investigation, but only 6 percent reported negative repercussions for the bully.

Is bullying in the workplace illegal?

So far, 30 states have introduced various iterations of the Healthy Workplace Bill, which does not use the term, “workplace bullying,” but specifically defines and addresses an “”abusive work environment.”

It also includes provisions that allow affected employees to:

  • Pursue legal recourse for health harming cruelty at work.
  • Sue the bully as an individual.
  • Hold the employer accountable for the bully’s behavior.
  • Seek reparations for lost wages and benefits.
  • Compel employers to prevent and correct future instances.

Its provisions also protect employers from frivolous complaints and litigations by:

  • Requiring proof of health harm by licensed health or mental health professionals.
  • Giving employers the ability to discipline offenders.
  • Mandating that plaintiffs use private attorneys.
  • Filling loopholes in current state and federal civil rights protections.

Finally, the Healthy Workplace Bill does not:

  • Require state agencies to enforce any provisions of the law
  • Incur costs for adopting states
  • Mandate that plaintiffs are members of protected status groups.

The WBI survey also found that the vast majority (more than three-quarters) of survey participants “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the enactment of a new law that would “protect all workers from repeated health-harming abusive mistreatment in addition to protections against illegal discrimination and harassment.”

What else can be done?

In the absence of or in addition to, existing laws, workplace education and the creation of zero tolerance policies, backed by strong leadership are touted as effective ways to address workplace bullying. Encouraging all employees to treat each other with a healthy dose of compassion and empathy and leading by example can’t hurt, either.

Featured image credit: johnhain / Pixabay
In Post Image Credit: WilliamCho / Pixabay

Options4Growth Brings You A Complimentary Employment Law Webinar

Options4Growth, is teaming up with Hixson Nagatani LLP  to bring you a Complimentary Employment Law Webinar

Topic: California Supreme Court Dramatically Narrows Which Workers May Be Treated As Independent Contractors

When: Thursday, May 17, 2018 (noon to 1:00 p.m. PDT)


You’re invited to attend a complimentary webinar in which we will review the ruling, discuss potential liabilities and recommendations, and answer attendee questions.

In its most significant employment law ruling in several years, the California Supreme Court dramatically narrowed the definition of which workers may be treated as independent contractors (instead of employees) under wage and hour regulations found in the California “Wage Orders.”  Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County (Cal. 4/30/18).

The webinar will be facilitated by Jill Pappenheimer, Co-Founder of Options4Growth,  a Human Resources and Strategic Advising firm that blends high-touch consulting with cloud- based technology. Options4Growth provides Human Resources services to small and mid-size companies needing complete people function outsource to project based consulting, temporary staffing, recruiting and everything in-between.   The firm strives to create a culture of success, together with their clients.

Your presenters will be attorneys Ray Hixson and Brian Nagatani, who are partners of the law firm Hixson Nagatani LLP.  Hixson Nagatani LLP advises and represents businesses in a wide range of employment law matters.

Continuing education credits:  This program has been submitted to the HR Certification Institute and SHRM for review.  This program qualifies for 1.0 hour of MCLE for California attorneys.

If you have any questions, please contact Annie Skaf: or
Jill Pappenheimer, MBA, SPHR,, 415-305-8228

If this invitation has been forwarded to you, and you would like to be added to our distribution list, please click here:  Subscribe

Please note that neither this alert/invitation nor the webinar constitutes legal advice. Rather, they are meant only to assist in a general understanding of the law. Companies and individuals seeking legal advice should retain legal counsel.  This e-mail may be considered attorney advertising in some states.  Prior results described do not guarantee similar outcomes in future cases or transactions.

You may also forward this invitation to others who may be interested. 

Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business

A happy workforce is good for business. That translates to an environment where employees are inspired – where people WANT to make a difference. In this people-centered paradigm, strategists are looking beyond questions like “how can we be profitable?” Instead, they’re asking questions like “how can we be a great place to work?”

Companies that embrace the great-place-to-work model are at a competitive advantage in the war for talent. The best candidates are seeking those companies out. That’s making it more imperative for other aggressive companies to adopt that model as a key business goal.

What steps can a company take to be a great place to work? It starts with understanding key components of workplace satisfaction.

Employee engagement – companies with top-to-bottom engagement are more productive and perform better financially.  Engagement means staff are passionate and positive about what they do, and feel aligned with the company mission and goals.

Transparency – this came up as the #1 factor in a 2013 survey by Tinypulse. Open communication is key. The more employees feel connected with management, coworkers and work teams, the happier and more engaged they are.

Appreciation – being recognized for their work came out #1 in a huge Boston Consulting Group survey of over 200,000 people from around the world.

Other factors like compensation and company stability ranked high also, but focusing on the 3 above guides us to a key understanding: that a culture with open, positive communication can lead directly to a better workplace.

Continue reading “Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business”

Options4Growth Co-Founder Kirsti Tcherkoyan Profiled in Forbes Online

Kirsti Tcherkoyan, Co-Founder of Options4Growth, was recently profiled in Forbes Online. Kirsti and her business partner, Jill Pappenheimer, have a unique approach to running their business—they honor their people. They hire people who can no longer work 60 hours a week, but don’t want to be limited by what part-tme employment opportunities may offer. People want flexibility to pick up the kids, or care for their elderly parents. The employees of Options4Growth drive their own work schedules, so they can prioritize their lives. Kirsti and Jill’s approach is to empower employees to volunteer their time, give back to their communities, take care of themselves and their families.


Continue reading “Options4Growth Co-Founder Kirsti Tcherkoyan Profiled in Forbes Online”

Kirsti In Kenya – A Cultural Consciousness

The first time I traveled to Kenya, I was taught that it was important to not force my Western standards on a country whose culture is quite different than mine.  The lesson has been a difficult one to learn, and today I found myself really questioning my own assumptions of how “things should be.”

Kirsti with Teacher Alfred, Volunteer Josh and three students.

Kirsti with three of the students, Teacher Alfred (center) and Josh (left), another volunteer.

Continue reading “Kirsti In Kenya – A Cultural Consciousness”

Kirsti in Kenya – They Say, “It Takes A Village!”

Today, we spent the day in what could be considered a small village.  Four small classrooms with nearly 100 children crammed inside of them.  And teaching them are two teachers who have done an amazing job of not only teaching the basics for school, but the basics of life.

Evelyn Waneloba and Alfred Gatimu are two remarkable teachers in this tiny learning center in the heart of Kawangware, Kenya. Kawangware is the second largest slum outside of Nairobi, home to over 400,000 people.  In this small learning center called, “Ray of Hope” and “Little Ray of Hope”, Evelyn and Alfred and a small group of others, make sure the children are clothed and fed each day before they go to school.  The older group of children, all go to public schools during the day, and get their breakfast and tutoring at the Ray of Hope.  The Little Ray of Hope is home to over 50 children from ages 2 – 7, who are being taught the basics before they can go to public school.

Continue reading “Kirsti in Kenya – They Say, “It Takes A Village!””