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Workplace verbal abuse

Although no laws specifically address workplace verbal abuse, Indiana employers may still be held to be civilly liable in the event that such behavior is allowed to continue occurring in the workplace. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration's standards that the employer provides a safe and healthy workplace may be interpreted to cover verbal abuse.

If the employer either subjects an employee to ongoing verbal abuse or allows it to continue, the employer runs the risk of the courts determining that the employer has failed to provide a safe and healthy workplace and thus hold the employer liable for damages as a result. In 2008, for example, the Indiana Supreme Court awarded a nurse $325,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault because of the way a surgeon treated her at her workplace.

The problem of workplace verbal abuse is common. A 2010 study completed by the U.S. Workforce Bullying Institute revealed 35 percent of all U.S. workers reported that they had been subjected to workplace bullying. Employers should take note of situations in which an employee regularly belittles another employee and should take steps to end the problem. Employees should be encouraged to report such abuse, and the employer should then provide consequences to the abuser for his or her behavior.

Employment disputes often arise in the workplace. Employees have the right to be able to work in an environment that is healthy and safe for all. When an employer does little or nothing in response to ongoing abusive behavior by an employee, he or she may be held to be civilly liable through the filing of a civil lawsuit. Employees who have been abused in such a manner may wish to speak with an employment law attorney.

Source: Houston Chronicle , "Worker's Rights in the Workplace Regarding Verbal Abuse", Dana Sparks, November 23, 2014

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