Enduring explosive outbursts should not be part of your job description. You are paid to work, not suffer emotional abuse from verbal harassment. As kids, many of us were bullied on the playground, but those days should be long behind us now.
Unfortunately, a 2014 survey from Workplace Bullying Institute shows that almost 30 percent of all workers in the U.S. have been, or are currently being, bullied in their place of employment. Over 65 million Americans have been affected by verbal abuse in the workplace.
Most workplace bullying comes from bosses and from men. Over 40 percent of those abused verbally in the workplace indicated that the abusive conduct came from their superior or boss. With the abuse typically coming from those with authority, it is no surprise that employer reaction to abusive conduct is oftentimes weak and ineffective. Sixteen percent of those verbally abused in the workplace said that employers simply discounted the bullying and verbal abuse, and 15 percent said that employers often go so far as to rationalize the behavior — excusing it as simply within the normal course of business.
Some types of verbal abuse in the workplace may include more subtle behavior than shouting or loud insults. Any language that is intimidating, humiliating, threatening, discriminatory, degrading, insulting, or false could be considered verbal abuse. Racial slurs, degrading language based on gender or sexual orientation, sexual innuendo, humiliating a worker in front of others regarding their work performance, spreading gossip or lies, blaming a worker for something that they did not do, trivializing or dismissing an employee’s valid workplace concerns, constantly interrupting or undermining workers, or threatening an employee in any way are all examples of workplace verbal abuse.
Studies and research have shown that verbal abuse leads to stress and an elevated fight-or-flight response. These reactions to verbal abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Along with physical and emotional trauma, verbal abuse oftentimes causes employees to have low morale and feel unsafe in the workplace, which leads to lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism.
In some circumstances, verbal abuse may cross the line into illegal harassment that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes harassment in the form of verbal abuse as any conduct that is unwelcome based on identifying factors such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
If you feel you have been the victim of verbal abuse at work, ask yourself if the incidents have been unwelcome, regarding a protected characteristic, happened multiple times, or appear hostile in any way at all. If so, you may have grounds to sue your employer for creating or allowing a hostile work environment.
If you are suffering from verbal abuse in the workplace, contact the experienced employment attorneys at California Employment Counsel, APC at 866-545-2415 or (714) 462-8376 to discuss your legal rights and learn your options.
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