Close up of eyeglasses on table with unhappy girl student using tablet in university library.

My Manager Is Bullying Me At Work Understanding Your Rights and Options

By Douglas Lipsky

Imagine starting your day with dread, knowing that your boss will likely belittle your efforts or publicly criticize you. This is the harsh reality of workplace bullying. But you’re not powerless. Recognizing the signs of bullying and understanding your rights are the first steps to reclaiming your professional dignity. Remember, enduring bullying isn’t part of the job description, and you deserve a respectful work environment.

Understanding Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is more than just an occasional tough day at the office; it’s a pattern of behavior that can undermine an employee’s dignity, job performance, and mental well-being. This type of harassment is often characterized by persistent, deliberate actions intended to belittle, intimidate, or demean an employee. Some common examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Repeatedly and unfairly criticizing an employee’s work or efforts.
  • Publicly shaming or humiliating an employee in front of colleagues.
  • Deliberately excluding an employee from essential meetings or professional opportunities.

However, it’s crucial to distinguish between challenging management and bullying. A tough manager sets high standards and pushes their team to improve, but they do so with respect and fairness. Bullying, on the other hand, involves disrespectful, harmful behaviors that go beyond the scope of professional management. Understanding this difference is critical to recognizing when it’s time to seek help for workplace bullying.

What Does NY Law Say About Workplace Bullying

While there is no specific law that addresses workplace bullying as a standalone issue, various state and federal laws provide protection against harassment and discrimination that can encompass bullying behaviors. For example, the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law prohibit harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, and religion. 

Under current laws, bullying is actionable only if based on a protected characteristic. This means that generic bullying, without a link to discrimination, might not be covered. 

However, this legal landscape is subject to change, as there is increasing awareness and advocacy for broader anti-bullying laws. Employees who feel they are victims of bullying should consult with an employment lawyer to understand their rights and the nuances of these laws.

How Bullying Impacts Employees

The impact of workplace bullying on employees can be profound and far-reaching, affecting their professional and personal lives. Victims of bullying often experience a decline in job performance due to the constant stress and anxiety caused by the hostile work environment. This can lead to a loss of confidence, decreased motivation, and even physical health issues like headaches or insomnia.

Moreover, the emotional toll can be equally damaging. Employees subjected to bullying may suffer from depression, increased feelings of isolation, and a deteriorating sense of self-worth. The psychological strain can extend beyond the workplace, affecting relationships and overall quality of life. It’s crucial for both employers and employees to recognize these signs and take action to address and prevent workplace bullying.

Practical Steps to Address Managerial Bullying

Addressing managerial bullying requires a proactive and structured approach. Here are some practical steps employees can take:

  • Document the Behavior: Keep a detailed record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, what was said or done, and any witnesses. This documentation can be crucial for any future actions.
  • Review Company Policies: Familiarize yourself with your employer’s policies on harassment and bullying. Knowing the official procedures can guide your next steps.

After gathering evidence and understanding your company’s stance, consider the following actions:

  • Report to HR or Upper Management: With your evidence, approach human resources or a higher-level manager. Clearly and calmly present your case, emphasizing the impact on your work and well-being.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If the internal approach doesn’t yield results or the situation escalates, consulting with an employment lawyer can clarify your rights and options.

Throughout this process, prioritize your well-being and seek support from trusted colleagues, friends, or mental health professionals. Taking these steps helps address the issue and empowers you to stand against workplace bullying.

When To Call a Lawyer

When workplace bullying becomes severe, pervasive, and unresolved despite internal efforts, it’s time to call a lawyer. This is especially crucial if the bullying is linked to discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics. An employment lawyer can provide legal advice, help you understand your rights, and determine if legal action is necessary. Don’t hesitate to seek professional legal assistance if your health, well-being, or career is significantly affected.

Fight Back Against Workplace Bullying

In the face of workplace bullying, remember that you are not alone, and help is available. At Lipsky Lowe, we are committed to supporting and guiding you through these challenging situations with our expertise in employment law. Contact us for a consultation, and let’s work together to restore respect and dignity to your work environment.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.