When Workplace Harassment is Okay…

Today the US Supreme Court ruled that workplace mistreatment only counts as job harassment if it comes from a supervisor. Apparently it’s open season for all bullies out there to go to town because when abuse comes from a coworker, responsibility for the action does not lie with the organization.


This ruling effectively absolves organizations of responsibility for the way its employees treat each other. To put this in perspective, this would be the same as saying that Schools are not responsible when children bully each other.

I wonder if they considered the evidence in this ruling? Consider, for example, that  coworker aggression has significant, negative effects on target job stress, employee commitment, psychological and physical well-being, performance, and intentions to stay with the organization (see Hershcovis & Barling, 2010). Consider also that coworker aggression has the potential to ruin a target’s reputation and ability to maintain positive relationships at work (see Duffy et al., 2002).

Manager already have a hard time intervening on workplace bullying. This finding gives them permission to look the other way without fear of reprisal. Today the US took two giant steps backward in preventing workplace aggression.

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