Our company has a policy against bullying in the workplace, part of our overall Professional Conduct policy. Do you advise bringing it to HR (similar to a harassment issue)? Bullying does not seem to be in the same category as other forms of harassment.
Rita Risser Chai replies:
Your company’s bullying policy should include how complaints are to be made and handled. You’re right that bullying is not in the same category as harassment, in the sense that harassment can be illegal, whereas bullying usually is not (though it can be if it rises to the level of assault, threats, stalking, etc.) Nonetheless, having HR handle bullying complaints can be a good idea. HR is presumably skilled at investigating complaints. In addition, they may find that people accused of bullying are also harassing. Ultimately, if an adverse action is to be taken against a bully, HR needs to be involved. It is just as well that HR be involved from the beginning. Having said that, some organizations have an ombudsman position where employees can take disputes to be resolved informally. It could be to everyone’s benefit to have this kind of alternative dispute resolution mechanism available.
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