The difference between bullying and harassment

It goes without saying that no one likes a bully. At the same time, being harassed isn’t much fun either. Both behaviors are deplorable, so it’s almost like the difference between tomato (to-MAY-to) and tomato (to-MAH-to).

But unfortunately for some employers (specifically HR managers) there is a difference between bullying and harassment. Also, the behaviors can be dealt with differently. This post will highlight the differences between the two. 

The reason for the behavior – To HR managers, harassment is largely based on a person’s attributes if they belong to a protected class. For instance, a person may be harassed because of their sex, race or religion. Sexual harassment is a prime example. When this occurs, a man is behaving badly because he is physically attracted to a woman. Conversely, when a person is a bully (or a person is being bullied) it is largely due to power, or the threat of losing such power to someone else.

Who they can complain to – Victims of sexual harassment or any other sort of harassment have an outlet to complain to. They can go to human resources for a remedy, since harassment can be actionable as a matter of law when it is not addressed. On the contrary, a bullying victim may not be the same priority to an HR manager since most states don’t have anti-bullying statutes. In California, workplace bullying is not yet actionable, but state law requires that anti-bullying be a part of any harassment training program for managers and supervisors.

If you feel like you have been bullied or harassed in the workplace, an experienced employment law attorney can help.  

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