Press "Enter" to skip to content

Only ‘Protected Class’ Bullying Defended By Law

By Chris Pace

Campus committees and personnel proposed changes to the faculty bullying policy which only allow certain types of harassment suits to go to court. There are strict regulations that limit legal action against certain types of bullying, leaving the remaining cases to be left unaddressed.

There are laws that state that if the instigator abuses you for “protected class” reasons, such as race, gender and religion, there can be legal action.  If the reasons are not in the protected class, it is not illegal and nothing can be done.  While some students don’t believe faculty bullying is an issue, the Committee on the Concerns of Women is trying to address it.

“Workplace bullying can be defined as repeated health-harming behavior, whether it be verbal abuse, intimidation, work sabotage or exploitation of physical or psychological disability,” says Dr. Katherine Hermes, a history professor at Central Connecticut said. She is a member of the subcommittee for workplace bullying and sexual harassment on campus.

“I wanted to be involved in the committee because one of my best childhood friends killed herself as a result of workplace bullying,” Hermes said.

Dr. Hermes and other members of the committee decided to take action to try and change the policy of harassment, beginning at CCSU and hopefully extending to the State of Connecticut.

In regards to faculty bullying, the Committee on the Concerns of Women states: “Central Connecticut State University is committed to having a positive working environment for its faculty, administrators and staff.  All individuals have the right to enjoy an environment free from forms of conduct that can be considered abusive, such as bullying, mobbing or harassment.  In addition, academic freedom can exist only when every person is free to pursue ideas in a non-threatening atmosphere of mutual respect.  CCSU is committed to protecting the academic freedom and freedom of expression of all members of the school community.”

If an employee were to harass another due to their protected class, they have the right to sue. If they harass for any other reason not in the protected class, nothing can be done.  The above statement and proposals from the Committee on the Concerns of Women are meant to change that.

“I don’t want a protected class,” Hermes asserts.

Although a protected class may seem like all you need as a defense, any traits you have that are not part of the protected class are vulnerable to harassment and subsequently left without lawful justice.  For example, Hermes mentioned obesity, which is not part of a protected class. So if a co-worker is bullying someone because of their weight, there is no case that can be filed.

There are no reported cases of harassment between faculty members on campus, but it is highly possible that it could happen.  The Committee on the Concerns of Women has information on the school website including statistics.  One statistic states, “Thirty-seven percent of American workers, an estimated 54 million people, have been bullied at work.  It effects half (49%) of American workers, 71.5 million workers, when witnesses are included.”

One key piece of information mentioned on the website: “The Connecticut General Assembly has twice had bills on workplace bullying that would allow a private right of action by the target, the first of which made it out of the Labor Committee, the second of which did not.  Neither was passed.”