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1. Create an anti-bullying policy. This is often a portion of the code of conduct or anti-harassment policy within an employee handbook. Any policy should include the following:
• A definition of bullying and other unacceptable forms of harassment, including examples;
• Strong language that such conduct will not be tolerated and may lead to disciplinary action, including termination;
• An easy-to-understand reporting procedure for raising internal complaints of bullying;
• A statement that all employees are encouraged to report bullying, whether they experience it themselves or merely witness it among coworkers;
• A promise that all complaints will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly;
• Assurance that retaliation for reporting bullying is prohibited; and
• The employer’s pledge that all complaints will be kept confidential to the extent confidentiality does not interfere with the employer’s ability to conduct its investigation.
2. Practice what you preach. Follow the anti-bullying policy. That entails training supervisors how to recognize and address workplace bullying. It also requires separate training for nonsupervisory staff regarding the prohibition against bullying, how to use the internal complaint procedure and what to do if they experience or witness bullying, whether in the workplace or outside the workplace between coworkers. A final step is to make available a confidential procedure for employees to follow in the event they experience bullying or feel unsafe in the workplace.
3. Document employees’ knowledge of the internal complaint procedure. Have them execute handbook acknowledgement forms, and maintain attendance sheets for training sessions.
4. Audit internal bullying complaints. Evaluate whether the audit results indicate that specific jobs or locations within your workplace are at higher risk for bullying or other harassment. The results can also suggest that additional or different training sessions are needed.
5. Conduct background checks for potential new hires. Employers should investigate whether a job candidate has a history of workplace bullying or violence, and make appropriate changes to job application materials.
Michael Volpe is a partner in Venable LLP’s New York office and cochairs the firm’s national labor & employment group. Nicholas Reiter is a labor & employment associate in the firm’s New York office. For more information regarding this article or issues related to workplace bullying, please contact Volpe at 212-808-5676 or email@example.com or Reiter at 212-370-6296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.