How to Report Workplace Bullying

Three Parts:Identifying Workplace BullyingReporting Bullying to Your EmployerReporting Discrimination to the EEOC

Workplace bullying is a pattern of behavior which involves harassment, intimidation, or humiliation. Workplace bullying can be committed by your supervisor or by your peers. People who are targeted for workplace bullying often suffer emotional and physical harm as well as professional setbacks. If you or a coworker are suffering from workplace bullying, then you should take the necessary steps to report it.

Part 1
Identifying Workplace Bullying

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    Identify physical intimidation. Bullying can be any abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.[1] Though physical intimidation is an uncommon form of workplace bullying,[2] it is usually illegal. If a coworker punches, slaps, or assaults you, then they have also committed a criminal act.
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    Pay attention to verbal bullying. Verbal bullying may be harder to detect since most workplaces have some amount of occasional verbal conflict. Nevertheless you should try to recognize the different varieties of verbal bullying:[3]
    • Shouting or swearing at an employee when you do not shout at all employees
    • Singling out an employee for unjustified criticism or blame
    • Excluding an employee from company activities or ignoring their contribution to work projects
    • Practical jokes that repeatedly target one person or a small group
  3. Image titled Deal With Your Mom When You Are Mad Step 6
    Identify early warning signs. You may be the victim of bullying without necessarily knowing it. There are some warning signs that you should be aware of. These warning signs include:[4]
    • You feel like vomiting the night before you start your work week.
    • You use all of your paid time off for “mental health breaks.”
    • You feel physically and emotional exhausted all of the time.
    • You begin to believe that you have provoked the workplace cruelty.
    • Your boss calls surprise meetings that serve no other purpose than to humiliate you.
    • People at work have been told to stop working or socializing with you.
    • Human Resources tells you the harassment isn’t illegal but something for you and your tormentor to work out yourselves. Also, other coworkers and supervisors recognize the bullying but do nothing about it.
    • You are accused of harassment yourself when you confront your tormentor.
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    Understand why bullying is serious. Bullying can have harmful effects on its victims which can last for years. Victims experience stress and depression, financial problems from missed work, and sleep disorders.[5] According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is like domestic violence, except that it takes place at work.[6]
    • Workplace bullying also has negative consequences for organizations, which can suffer lost productivity, high employee turnover, and potential lawsuits or investigations.[7] If you are a supervisor and you observe your employees bullying each other, then you will want to deal with the problem swiftly.

Part 2
Reporting Bullying to Your Employer

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    Review company policies. Your company may have policies that spell out how you may lodge a complaint about bullying. Look in your company manuals or handbook or review your employment contract. If you can’t find anything, then contact Human Resources and ask what the current policy is.
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    Read your collective bargaining agreement. If you belong to a union, then your collective bargaining agreement should outline a grievance procedure. You should read the agreement and find the appropriate procedure to follow.
    • You should also contact your union representative and fill them in on the details of the bullying.
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    Document the bullying. Before reporting the bullying, you should try to document as best you can the offending behavior.[8] If you have emails or voicemails, then preserve those. If the bullying happened face-to-face, then try to remember the important details:
    • when and where the bullying occurred
    • who participated in the bullying
    • the substance of the bullying
    • the names of any witnesses
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    Report the bullying to the appropriate person. You should not hesitate to report bullying. Often bullies don’t even realize how others perceive them; once their behavior is brought to their attention, many are willing to change.[9] Accordingly, you should follow your company’s procedures for reporting harassment or bullying.
    • If your company has no policy, then you should nevertheless speak to your supervisor, unless the supervisor is the offender, in which case you should contact Human Resources.

Part 3
Reporting Discrimination to the EEOC

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    Understand federal anti-discrimination laws. If bullying is based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, or disability, then it constitutes illegal discrimination. Age discrimination is also illegal if the person is over 40. The federal agency tasked with enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
    • To read up on federal anti-discrimination law, visit the EEOC website at
    • According to one estimate, about 20% of workplace bullying also involves illegal discrimination.[10]
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    Find state or local anti-discrimination laws. Your state or county may have anti-discrimination laws that are much broader than the federal laws. You should find all applicable laws by performing a web search. Type “your state” and “discrimination” or “anti-discrimination” into a search engine.
    • If you can’t find anything, then contact your state’s Department of Labor and ask about state-specific anti-discrimination laws.
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    Use the EEOC’s online assessment. The EEOC has created an online assessment tool that will tell you if the EEOC is the correct agency to contact. To use the tool, visit the EEOC website at
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    Locate the appropriate EEOC or similar state agency. Although the EEOC is the federal agency tasked with investigating claims of illegal discrimination, states may also create their own agencies. If you live in a state with its own agency, then you will have the option of contacting either the federal EEOC or your state agency. Frequently, state agencies provide workers greater rights, so it makes sense to go with your state agency if that is the case.
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    Visit a field office to file a complaint. You cannot file a complaint (called a “charge”) online.[11] You must either visit the field office or send a charge by writing.
    • Depending on the office, you may have to schedule an appointment or you might be able to meet with someone by walking in. Call ahead of time to check if you need to schedule an appointment.
  6. Image titled Mail a Letter Step 7
    File a charge through the mail. You must make sure that your letter contains sufficient information to allow the EEOC to investigate your charge. Make sure that the letter contains the following:[12]
    • your contact information (name, address, and telephone number)
    • your employer’s contact information (name, address, and telephone number)
    • the number of employees employed at your worksite
    • a short description of the events you believe were discriminatory
    • when the events happened
    • why you believe you were discriminated against (e.g., race, religion, etc.)
    • your signature
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    Speak to an attorney. The EEOC or a state agency will investigate your charge by contacting your employer. If you want to bring a subsequent lawsuit, then you will probably want an attorney. To find an experienced employment lawyer, visit your state’s bar association, which should run a referral service.
    • Employment law attorneys can charge hourly rates between $250 and $600.[13] They may also be open to representing you on contingency. Under this arrangement, the attorney will only collect a fee if you win your case. The fee will be a percentage of your damages award (typically 35-40%). You would still be responsible for court costs, such as filing fees.
    • If you want someone just to talk to, then you might want to see if a legal aid organization exists in your area. Legal aid organizations provide low cost or free legal services to those in financial need. To locate a legal aid organization, use the Legal Services Corporation’s locator at


  • If you are physically assaulted at work, then you should call the police and file a police report.
  • You should not ignore bullying or believe that you must “suffer through.” Silence only validates the bullying.[14]

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Categories: Workplace Conflicts Coping and Issues | Official Writing and Complaints