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Protecting Alberta residents from workplace bullying

A lot of people think that bullying stops in the schoolyard, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Adult bullying happens at most workplaces in some form, and it is usually psychological. Unlike the pushing, shoving and hitting that happens with children, workplace bullying is usually very psychological, and sometimes the victims do not even realize this negative social dynamic is happening to them.

According to the Canada Safety Council, at least one out of every six workers has been bullied on the job. One out of five has seen bullying happening at their workplaces. Legally, this behaviour is defined as a repeat pattern of negativity directed at specific groups or people. It usually results in psychological harm instead of physical harm but in extreme cases, bullying might also include forms of physical abuse.

Bullying can usually be classified under the following three categories: 1) rudeness or hostility that is disrespectful of the victim; 2) intimidation, threats or the abuse of power; 3) deliberate actions to interfere with the victim's work product. These actions may take the form of the following: mean gossip and rumours; offensive comments; insults and put downs; scolding, blaming, belittling and criticizing; isolating and excluding; intimidation with personal space and body gestures; stealing credit for another's work; withholding information; taking away worker responsibilities without giving a reason; use of offensive language; threatening abuse and more.

Just like instances of domestic violence, though, it is not uncommon for individuals to be wrongly accused of workplace bullying. As such, this can be a complicated, "he said, she said" issue that must be examined closely by judges to determine what actually occurred.

When an Alberta resident feels like he or she is being put down, diminished, mistreated or made to feel badly by a co-worker, he or she may want to consider whether the behaviour falls under the category of workplace bullying. An experienced employment lawyer will be able to assist them in pursuing legal restitution if bullying has indeed occurred.

Source: Alberta Government, "Bullies at Work: What to Know, What You Can Do," accessed June 02, 2016

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Ridout Barron
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Calgary, AB T2T 3T1

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