Who Knew Dolphins Were Bullies

Recent allegations of bullying and hazing of a Miami Dolphin rookie player by a veteran player, serve as a reminder to employers to consider whether their workplace could benefit from an anti-bullying policy.  Bullying is not only bad for morale, but can often form the basis of legal claims for harassment and discrimination, and if not handled properly, retaliation.

What should your policy include?  At a minimum: a definition of bullying; examples of prohibited behavior; a complaint process; and assurances against retaliation.  One place to start is the American Bar Association’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy which defines bullying as: “persistent, malicious, unwelcome, severe and pervasive mistreatment that harms, intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment.” The ABA policy also lists the following as examples of prohibited workplace bullying:

  • Exclusion or social isolation;
  • Excessive monitoring or micro-managing;
  • Work-related harassment (work-overload, unrealistic deadlines, meaningless tasks);
  • Being held to a different standard than the rest of an employee’s work group;
  • Consistent ignoring or interrupting of an employee in front of co-workers;
  • Personal attacks (angry outbursts, excessive profanity, or name-calling);
  • Encouragement of others to turn against the targeted employee;
  • Sabotage of a co-worker’s work product or undermining of an employee’s work performance;
  • Stalking;
  • Unwelcome touching or unconsented-to touching;
  • Invasion of another’s person’s personal space,
  • Unreasonable interference with an employee’s ability to do his or her work (i.e.,overloading of emails);
  • Repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets;
  • Conduct that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to the employer’s legitimate business interests.

Your policy should also give employees information about how to report bullying and how your company will handle complaints.  You will also need to educate and train management to enforce the policy, unlike the Miami Dolphin’s coaching staff, who apparently encouraged veterans to bully and demean rookies.  The ABA Policy can be found here: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/events/labor_law/2012/03/national_conference_on_equal_employment_opportunity_law/mw2012eeo_eisenberg2.authcheckdam.pdf

Coverage of the Dolphins’ bullying scandal can be found throughout the media.  For example: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57611735/dolphins-management-falls-under-scrutiny-in-football-bullying-scandal/

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