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Identifying discrimination versus bullying

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2019 | Firm News |

A hostile work environment can be quite discouraging for workers. In fact, some employees leave companies due to several different types of hostility.

For those facing discrimination in the workplace, it is possible to seek an end to such acts. However, it is important to correctly identify it. While discrimination and bullying have some commonalities, they are different issues.


Simply stated, discrimination is the improper treatment of a party due to the party’s differences. Parties may fall under a variety of discriminatory classes, and as society evolves, so do the classes. In addition, there are laws in place that prohibit discrimination or harassment in the workplace, according to those discriminatory classes.


Actions that consistently cause a party to feel defenseless against or trapped into harassing behavior characterizes workplace bullying. These actions may be physical or verbal. The key aspect for the actions to classify as bullying is the repetitive nature of the harassing acts against a particular party.

Key differentiators

There are a couple of aspects of the two actions that differentiate discrimination from bullying. While discrimination is usually due to a person’s differences, such as race, gender or sexual orientation, bullying is due to reasons outside the party’s discrimination class. In other words, a person of the same class may bully another party. Also, bullying is a combination of repetitive acts, while discrimination may be the result of one particular action or several acts. While both can negatively affect a party, the approaches are usually different. While bullying may cross into the realm of physical acts, discrimination usually does not.

Whether employees identify that they face discrimination or bullying, the employer must address it. Properly identifying the action and pursuing the proper company policies in that regard is the first step to seeking a proper resolution.