California does not have laws against verbal abuse in the workplace. There are prohibitions against harassment in the workplace monitored by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), but they usually do not include verbal abuse or bullying unless it is continuing and systematic.
Companies must confront verbal abuse in the workplace, whether the employee committing the abuse is a supervisor or a co-employee. Obviously, management tends to disfavor a verbally abusive manager or supervisor because such actions affect productivity, employee morale, and flood employee complaint channels. The following will explore how your company can protect itself against employee lawsuits claiming verbal abuse in the workplace.
Know How to Identify Verbal Abuse
Being able to identify verbal abuse in the workplace is challenging. The identity of the perpetrator— manager, supervisor, or co-worker — is a factor to consider when investigating a verbal abuse complaint. To shield your company from a lawsuit, it is important to start in-house by training your human resources staff on how to identify verbal abuse and investigate allegations of verbal abuse.
A demanding boss is not committing verbal abuse when he or she asks an employee why they failed to meet a deadline. Examples of verbal abuse may include shouting, name-calling, making snide remarks about management or coworkers, blaming others for the boss’s own mistakes, belittling people, spreading rumors, and negative gossip about management or co-workers.
Establish Proactive Intervention Policies with Clear Consequences for Noncompliance
Establishing and maintaining channels by which an employee can report a problem involving verbal abuse is the most important step to take within your company. All employees must know that verbal abuse in the workplace will not be tolerated, and if someone feels that he or she is being verbally abused, that person should report it to a supervisor or human resources representative. This policy should be stated in your company’s employee handbook.
After an investigation, the offending employee can be warned verbally or in writing that if the offending behavior continues, he or she may be terminated. Many times, this type of early intervention nips the problem in the bud. Watch out for retaliation and make sure the warning reminds the offending employee that retaliating against the complaining employee is also prohibited and will lead to immediate suspension or termination from employment.
Defend Your Company from Lawsuits
Despite your company’s best efforts aggrieved employees may still sue your company alleging that the company knew of the offending conduct but did nothing about it. At this juncture, it is critical to bring in a business lawyer who can defend your business in court by seeking dismissal of frivolous claims. A business lawyer will be able to demonstrate that your company took the allegations of verbal abuse seriously, investigated the complaint and took appropriate action against the offending employee.
Protecting Business Assets from Employee Lawsuits
Don’t wait until you are facing a lawsuit – get corporate protection against verbal abuse in the workplace before it threatens your business’ assets. Our attorneys will guide you with an eye toward avoiding employee lawsuits entirely and providing termination tips to minimize post-employment lawsuits. To speak with one of our business lawyers, request an appointment today or call us at (925) 463-9600. JGPC Law serves businesses in Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, Tracy, Manteca, and San Ramon at our Pleasanton and Livermore, California offices.