New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws are some of the toughest in the country. Just last week, Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate who later killed himself.
While New Jersey employers may not think that these same problems can happen in the workplace, the truth is that they can and they do. According to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute survey, 35% of American adults say they have been bullied at work. Another 15 percent reported witnessing others being bullied. Studies also suggest that bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment.
While federal law prohibits protected status-based harassment and outright workplace violence, bullying is not unlawful in most cases. Nonetheless, it can still have a negative effect on the entire company.
For instance, bullying at work has been shown to reduce employee productivity and morale, cause higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increase medical and workers’ compensation claims. A 1998 study at University of North Carolina demonstrated that out of 775 targets of workplace aggression, 28 percent lost time at work avoiding the situation, 22 percent decreased their effort, and 12 percent changed jobs.
With this in mind, New Jersey employers should consider adopting policies to address workplace bullying to protect all employees, not just members of protected classes. Below are a few steps employers can take to address workplace bullying:
- Create an anti-bullying policy. The policy should clearly describe conduct that will be considered bullying;
- Outline the steps for reporting bullying; and detail the consequences of workplace bullying.
- Train employees or hold an anti-bullying workshop. This will teach employees how to recognize workplace bullying and ensure that employees understand that bullying will not be tolerated in the workplace.
- Take claims of workplace bullying seriously and conduct a proper investigation.
For additional information about shielding your New Jersey business from employment-related liability, please contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Labor and Employment Law Group at 201.397.1776.