Bullying refers to unwanted aggressive and repeated behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. While bullying is generally associated with school-aged children, a U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, released in February of 2014, reveals that bullying is a prevalent problem in workplaces in Illinois.

Prevalence and awareness

The U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey concluded that approximately 27 percent of Americans have suffered from abusive conduct at work, 21 percent of employees have witnessed workplace bullying, and 72 percent of workers are aware that bullying happens where they work. In addition to this, 7 percent reported that they were currently being bullied and 20 percent of participants said they had been bullied at some point at work but not in the last year. In order to come to this consensus, participants were asked what their personal experience had been with abusive conduct in the workplace.

Examples of bullying

Workplace bullying can take on many different forms. However, some of the most common types of workplace bullying include:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Offensive behaviors or conduct that can be threatening, humiliating or intimidating
  • Any type of interference that prevents an employee from being able to get their work done

For example, employees may be the victim of bullying at work if: others have been told to stop talking to them; they are called into surprise meetings with a boss that do not have any results except humiliation; and they constantly feel like they are in a state of panic, waiting for something bad to happen while they are at work. An employee may also be the victim of bullying if they confront their harasser about the torment and are in turn accused of misconduct.

Proposed Illinois legislation

In order to prevent workplace bullying, bill SB2943 was introduced to the Illinois legislature in February of 2014 by Senator Ira Silverstein (D-8). If passed this bill will require employers to create and establish an anti-bullying policy and file it with the Department of Labor. Any business that violates the terms of this bill would be required to pay a fine.

It can be difficult to determine whether or not bullying is happening in the workplace because it is a repeated offense that escalates over time. It is also hard to prevent because it generally starts small and often times the employee starts to believe that they deserve this inappropriate treatment or caused it. In some cases, it can also be difficult to distinguish between bullying and a strong management style. Employees that believe they are the victim of workplace bullying can benefit from consulting with an attorney who can help them determine what their rights are.