What is the best way to deal with a workplace bully?

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.

Posted 04-05-2018

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.