Ridout Barron


Harassment and bullying can be subtle but obvious

Bullying is an issue in many Alberta workplaces. It is a form of harassment that involves verbal comments or actions that intend to isolate a co-worker. It can also include unwanted physical contact, and repeated actions can intimidate, humiliate, degrade and offend the victim. In some cases, it could develop into aggression, but it is not always easy to differentiate between harassment and powerful management tactics.

WorkSafeBC says typical workplace situations that might be mistaken for bullying include expression of opinion differences and offering advice, guidance or constructive feedback on work-related matters. Reasonable actions by management when it comes to assigning jobs or disciplinary actions are often mistaken for harassment. These actions could be intended to provide assistance to a worker.

Although the actions of bullies are often subtle, once harassment is suspected, the signs can be noticeable. Other tactics bullies use are the malicious spreading of gossip or rumors and making insinuations or unfounded accusations. Workers can be isolated, intimidated or undermined with the deliberate intent to jeopardize the victim's position at work. It can include the making of offensive jokes or comments, which are then spread by word or email to other employees. Many other forms of harassment exist, some of which involve a senior worker or member of the management toward a more junior worker.

Any worker in Alberta who believes he or she is the victim of harassment in the workplace can discuss the issue with an experienced employment law lawyer who can explain the available options of action that can be taken. Similarly, an employer who receives a complaint by a worker about being bullied by another staff member can get invaluable advice and guidance from legal counsel. A lawyer can facilitate mediation to resolve the issue or proceed with litigation if all other avenues fail.

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Ridout Barron
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