Employees in British Columbia are protected from discriminatory treatment, victimization and bullying in the workplace. WorkSafeBC mandates that employers must ban bullying and harassment of workers by colleagues and supervisors. Bullying and harassment can take on many forms.
An example is a specific employee whose life is made difficult by a manager or supervisor who dislikes him or her. This could include constant criticism of the employee’s work, where the employee is in fact competent, or giving the worker menial tasks as punishment. Sometimes a skilled worker is repeatedly overlooked for promotions for which he or she is qualified. While an employer’s reasonable actions to manage and direct workers are expressly not bullying and harassment, there are limits to what constitutes acceptable behaviour.
Victims of this type of behaviour can be made to feel unworthy, humiliated and degraded, often leading to anxiety. This type of humiliation could even come from co-workers spreading unfounded, vicious rumours about colleagues. Quite often, bullying and harassment includes discriminatory acts that are in violation of the BC Human Rights Code. If for instance, promotion is offered to an employee but withdrawn when it becomes clear that the employee is pregnant, it could be a case of discrimination. Gender, sexual orientation and ethnic origin are often the base from where victimization and bullying originate.
In many cases, bullying and harassment even on discriminatory grounds is so subtle that it is difficult to prove it. For that reason, victimized or bullied workers may choose to endure the unfair treatment. However, it might be a better idea to consult with a lawyer with experience in dealing with British Columbia employment law. Legal counsel can assess the circumstances and explain the worker’s rights and potential resolution — be it legal action or mediation. Having a lawyer in the corner of a victimized worker can give him or her the courage to speak up and take action against unfair treatment.