How to Handle Workplace Bullying and Harassment in California

workplace bullying california

Have you ever dreaded going to work because of a colleague or manager’s behavior? Does someone constantly demean you, sabotage your work, or create a hostile work environment? If so, you might be experiencing workplace bullying or harassment.

No one deserves to feel unsafe or belittled at work. Yet bullying and harassment in the workplace are disturbingly common experiences. If you’re experiencing this in California, here’s what you need to know about your options and how to handle workplace bullying and harassment.

Understanding Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

Workplace bullying involves repeated, unreasonable actions by individuals or a group meant to intimidate and endanger the health and safety of an employee or group of employees.

California law defines workplace harassment as unwelcome conduct in the workplace based on a protected characteristic, such as sex, race, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

The conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment or result in an adverse employment decision, such as termination, demotion, or denial of promotion.

An employer creates a hostile work environment when offensive or discriminatory conduct present in the workplace restricts an employee’s ability to perform their job.

Is Workplace Bullying Illegal in California?

While there isn’t a specific law on workplace bullying in California, harassment laws protect against bullying based on protected characteristics like race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or age. However, even if it doesn’t meet the criteria for harassment, persistent bullying can still lead to a hostile work environment, which California law prohibits.

What Constitutes Workplace Bullying and Harassment in California?

Harassment and Bullying can manifest in various forms, such as:

  • Verbal abuse—yelling, insults, threats, or offensive jokes;
  • Intimidation—menacing behavior, stalking, or creating a climate of fear;
  • Sabotage—deliberately interfering with your work or withholding resources; and
  • Humiliation—public ridicule, spreading rumors, or making unwanted sexual advances.

It is vital to recognize the signs of bullying and harassment at work and take immediate steps to address them to uphold a healthy work environment.

Key State and Federal Laws Protecting You Against Workplace Bullying in California

California law protects employees from bullying under several laws, including those that prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability. The following laws consider severe or persistent bullying to be harassment, creating a hostile work environment:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A federal law prohibiting discrimination based on a protected class. Although Title VII does not explicitly prohibit bullying, courts interpret “discrimination” on an unlawful basis to include harassment.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A federal act that protects those with physical and mental disabilities from unfair discrimination and harassment based on their disability.
  • The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). California state law governs many types of discrimination and bullying employees face. This law prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace based on protected characteristics like race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

If the bullying and harassment you’re experiencing falls under one or more of these laws, it can be considered illegal harassment.

How to Handle Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Remember that you don’t have to suffer in silence if you feel targeted or belittled at work. Some steps you can take to address the situation effectively include:

  • Document everything. Keep a detailed record of every incident, including dates, times, and specific actions or words used by your employer. Keeping a notebook or using a notes app on your phone are easy ways to track these details.
  • Report the harassment. Most companies have established procedures for reporting harassment. Follow those guidelines and report the behavior in writing to your supervisor or Human Resources department to create a record.
  • Explore alternatives. A change in work schedule, mediation, or requesting a transfer within the company can help limit your interaction with those harassing or bullying you. 
  • Gather evidence. Save any emails, voicemails, or physical evidence that supports your claims. These pieces of evidence can be crucial if your employer fails to take action.
  • Seek support. Talk to a trusted colleague, friend, or therapist. Having a support system can make a big difference in coping with the emotional stress of bullying or harassment.
  • Know your rights. Consult a California labor and employment attorney experienced in workplace bullying and harassment cases. An attorney can advise you on your legal options and protect your rights.

Taking proactive steps and prioritizing your well-being can help you regain control of the situation and hold your employer accountable for fostering a safe and respectful work environment.

What Can You Do If Your Employer Fails to Act?

If your employer fails to address the harassment effectively, you can file a complaint with:

A California labor and employment attorney can guide you through this process.

When to Seek Legal Help from a California Labor and Employment Attorney

A California labor and employment attorney can be your strongest advocate if:

  • The internal reporting process is ineffective;
  • You experience retaliation for reporting the behavior; and
  • The bullying or harassment is severe and causes significant emotional or psychological damage.

A knowledgeable attorney can:

  • Investigate your claim and assess potential legal options;
  • Advise you on the most effective course of action; and
  • Represent you in negotiations with your employer or file a complaint with the DFEH or EEOC. 

An experienced attorney can also help you pursue compensation for any damages or losses you have suffered due to the harassment or discrimination, such as lost wages. 

Speak Up and Seek Justice with Starpoint Law

With our extensive experience in labor and employment law, Starpoint Law understands the devastating effects of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Our firm has a proven track record of success, recovering nearly $1 million in compensation for victims of workplace disputes. We’ll tirelessly protect your rights and ensure you receive fair treatment. 

Contact us today for a complimentary, confidential consultation. Together, we can tackle this difficult situation and ensure that your employer is held accountable.

Where You Can Find Our Sherman Oaks Office

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Starpoint Injury Law Staff

Starpoint Law was founded on a number of core principles that allow us to help our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you have suffered injuries or facing an issue with your employer, reach out to our legal team and we can sit down for a free consultation and start the process immediately.

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