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Verbal abuse issues and workers' rights in California

In a report issued in 2010, the U.S. Workforce Bullying Institute found that more than one-third of the workers it interviewed noted that they had experienced some form of on-the-job bullying. Verbal abuse was one of the most common issues encountered. While any verbal abuse can be disconcerting, encountering the issue in the workplace can be especially stressful due to the connection between the environment and the ability to earn a living.

A business owner is responsible for the environment in which employees must work, and preventing or stopping verbal abuse is up to the leaders in the organization. Individuals who are verbally abusive are often those in positions of leadership or those who have seniority in a company. They may surround themselves with friends or colleagues who support or collaborate in the abusive behavior. Such an individual may be abusive in order to feel good, and that inner circle is unlikely to stand up against the behavior due to fear of receiving the same type of treatment. That same individual may act in a much different manner in the presence of the owner of a company.

It is important to provide an avenue through which an employee may report abusive behavior within the company without fear of retaliation. It is also important that employees understand their workplace rights and the remedies available for dealing with verbal abuse. An employer should understand that failing to provide a remedy and assist an employee who has suffered abuse could result in a legal challenge.

An individual who is dealing with an abusive supervisor may fear retaliation if a report is made to the human resources department. Documentation of steps taken may be helpful if there is retaliatory behavior. Such information could be helpful if there is a later decision to file a claim for workplace harassment.

Source: The Houston Chronicle, "Worker's Rights in the Workplace Regarding Verbal Abuse", Dana Sparks, December 26, 2014

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