The Difference Between Workplace Bullying and Harassment

April 02, 2018

As human resource professionals strive to insure a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees, they should note that some harmful bullying behaviors that aren't technically unlawful harassment can still be addressed in a workplace civility policy.

Bullying is generally defined as unwelcome behavior that occurs over a period of time and is meant to harm someone who feels powerless to respond. Bullying may or may not constitute unlawful harassment. Bullying is actionable under federal law only when the basis for it is tied to a protected category, such as age, disability, race, religion, or sex. So, an employee who is mean to everyone might not be engaging in unlawful conduct. But that doesn't mean it must be tolerated in the workplace. Bullies cancreatemorale problems and otherworkplace issues. Employers can have codes of conduct that address respect in the workplace and hold employees accountable if they do not treat others with respect.

Employees who are victims of bullying or harassment should know they can promptly report incidents to their supervisors, management-level employees, human resource representatives or other employees designated to receive reports.