You Can Still Bully Straight White Males​, But There Are Rules

You're not supposed to bully anybody in the workplace, but if you absolutely must go all Wolf of Wall Street on somebody for not respecting IPO day, make sure it's a straight white male. It's illegal to bully somebody because of their race or gender. But white males are not a "protected class" for employment discrimination purposes. So go nuts. If they don't like it, they can always "go back to Europe" or something.

Just kidding, this isn't 'Nam. There are rules. And if employers don't follow the rules, there will surely be some legislator who is eager to make the workplace safe for white men, and ruin everybody else's fun...

The 2014 US Workplace Bullying Survey reports that 72% of employees say that their employers have done nothing to curb workplace bullying. Again, that's because general bullying is not illegal unless it's directed at somebody because of their race or gender. "Shove it up your ass, pussy" = probably legal. "Shove it up your ass, baby" = probably illegal.

Labor lawyer Jon Hyman says that just because bullying is legal doesn't mean that employers should completely ignore it. He writes on the Ohio Employer's Law Blog (hat tip: Corporate Counsel):

The quickest way to ensure that generalized workplace bullying becomes illegal is for employers to continue to ignore it. If employees continued to report that they are being bullied, and that their employers are not doing anything to stop it, legislatures will step in and pass anti-bullying laws.

Yes, threaten employers with dreaded regulations. Then maybe they'll care about the plight of people bullied just because they look funny and can't handle their cocaine.

Hyman gives employers some rules for addressing workplace bullying before the government does:

  • Include bullying in your anti-harassment or other workplace conduct policies.
  • Train your employees about how you don't allow bullying, and what to do (i.e., how to report) incidents of bullying.
  • When an employee complains about bullying, don't ignore it, investigate it.
  • After the investigation, implement corrective actions, commensurate with the severity of the conduct, to reasonably insure that it does not reoccur.

Notice how none of those rules cost employers a dime? Essentially, the advice here is "when a man comes into your office crying, don't slap and tell him to act like a man." Good to know!

I think there wouldn't be as many employment discrimination suits that seem thin in terms of intent to discriminate if there were better anti-bullying rules that applied to people regardless of race or sex. Should it matter if you call somebody a "stupid f**kface" every morning, versus calling them a "stupid, black f**kface"?

Employers are bad at self-policing. If these minimal rules are too much for most employers, we probably will see some government regulation on the matter soon enough.