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DALLAS — Workplace bullying can lead to employment-related and workers compensation claims that can hurt productivity and lead to litigation, said experts speaking at the 2018 CLM & Business Insurance Retail, Restaurant & Hospitality Conference in Dallas.
“It occurred to me that many of the cases that I have defended over the years regarding stress in the workplace, psychiatric injury, sexual harassment, as well as other issues, really in a way have their genesis in the bullying behavior of someone in the workplace,” Jeffrey M. Adelson, Santa Ana, California-based general counsel and managing partner at Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, said speaking on a panel on Thursday.
A 2017 survey conducted by the Bellingham, Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute found that 19% of responding workers were victims of workplace bullying, with 61% of the perpetrators described as a “boss” or “supervisor,” 65% of the workers who reported being bullied also reporting they lost their jobs and 37% of workers having their workplace bullying experiences covered up by people in the workplace.
Workplace bullying has affected 60 million Americans, according to the institute.
“Workplace bullying can sound like an ambiguous label to put on a wide variety of behaviors,” said Diane Sanford, Dallas, Texas-based chief people officer at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. “It is sort of the foundation for which all other inappropriate behavior in the workplace springs from.”
Workplace bullying affects an employer’s bottom line because it broadens the liability and leads to cases alleging discrimination based on age, disability, gender, race and other protected classes, according to experts.
“On the workers comp side, you tend to see bullying coming through the door in California with stress claims. You will also see worker fatigue, absenteeism and when you are in the retail/ restaurant industry, it is difficult to track. Another thing that I have seen is someone with a workers comp claim being in a huge hurry to get back to work because that person’s absence was felt and there was pressure put on them to ‘hurry up and get the doctor to get you released,’ ” said Kendra Schropp, Irving, Texas-based director of risk management and safety at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and a 2017 BI Women to Watch.
It is important to pay attention to claims data for signs, according to experts.
“Another thing that is absolutely ridiculous is when you have a company with a steady amount of comp claims happening every now and again and then suddenly within the same set of circumstances, same type of work, same groups of employees and they have a low amount of workers comp reported,” Ms. Schropp said, adding that evidence of workplace bullying can sometimes emerge in this type of data.
Employers should address workplace bullying before it is too late because it can create liability issues when left unaddressed, according to experts.
Employers should pay attention to company culture, watch out for cliques that may make newer employees feel unwelcome and resist making allowances for the companies’ best performers accused of bullying, according to experts.
“If you can point to consistent behavior in your leadership within your organization that can say, ‘Every single time we have done the right thing and created an environment of respect, our culture stands for that,’ then you mitigate a lot of the gateway that opens to other litigation,” said Ms. Sanford.
Workplace bullying has reached “epidemic level,” according to a new study, and legal analysts are advising companies to take heed.