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Taking Action
By Gerriann Fox

The first thing to identify is your goal. If you are being bullied and have decided to take some sort of action (besides leaving your job) to make it stop, what that action is will define what you need to do. There are numerous possibilities.

Perhaps you intend to talk with your boss, or if your boss is the bully, your boss' boss, hoping that you can persuade that you are not being treated properly and need help. You should expect that whatever you complain about will be minimized and misconstrued by the bully, so you should be sure to have written proof of what you say and witnesses whenever possible.

To be sure that what you are complaining about is worthy of complaint be sure to tie it to your employer's written policies, procedures, rules, mission statement, press releases, or whatever else you can find. Many companies, for example, have written personnel procedures regarding how an employee will be disciplined, and for what sorts of things. If you had been shouted at in public, called names or cursed at, and had work labeled inadequate with no explanation or correction provided, for example, these are all likely violations of the company's own promulgated policy.

Creating paper trails everywhere is very important. Ask the bully to put instructions/complaints/punishments in writing. If he will not, write him a dated memo setting out exactly what happened and your understanding of it. End it asking for written clarification of any point you have reported erroneously. If the bully gives feedback only verbally, write that up the same way, asking the same questions. Keep that up always regardless of how angry the bully becomes. You are building a case for future use, if necessary.

So then when these early steps fail you may decide to file a grievance, if you are represented by a union. If you are in management service with governmental bodies there are usually procedures for such employees to grieve through agencies that oversee the one that employs them. In this case the first thing you need is a copy of the contract between the union and the employer or when there is no union, the policies that apply to your situation (often personnel policies). These must always be provided to you, if you don't already have them.

They will set out specific procedures for how to grieve an issue which include timelines, forms, specific details and the like. Be sure you meet them all exactly. And again be sure you have the evidence for the violation you allege clearly lined up, in writing and with witnesses, as I suggested above. It is useless, in my opinion, to think a fact-finder will believe your unsupported statements in the face of the defense your bully will mount. Don't waste your time and energy if you haven't the proof.

If you decide to file a Workers’ Comp complaint, you should hire an attorney. In the US in most, if not all, states such attorneys specialize and work on contingency. The attorney will help you decide if you have a case under existing law in your state, the type of proof necessary to prove the case, and whether you have it by evaluating what you have collected. It will be the same kind of stuff I explained above and again the written confirmation and witnesses are crucial. I found it helpful to look at the Workers’ Comp law myself and got a copy. What has happened in other cases similar to yours will not be written in the law but a good attorney will follow the precedent on every Workers’ Comp case like a hawk.

Incidentally, attorneys can be corrupt, boobs, lazy, stupid, and themselves bullies. Spend time carefully selecting your attorney. Check out her record with the bar association, speak with previous clients, if possible. You will spend a lot of time with this attorney in excruciatingly painful circumstances, perhaps, so put your time in the selection. If you are too sick to do all this get a trusted friend to help, if possible. Do not take anything you are told at face value; get numerous opinions, if necessary.

In a Workers’ Comp case, if you have been bullied, you will likely be claiming some sort of mental disability based on the treatment you received; it may well have many physical manifestations. In addition to what I said above, you should as early as possible begin documenting your medical/mental problems with your doctor and with a mental health provider. It is best to use a psychiatrist because they trump every other credential and carry the most weight with fact finders. Report all your symptoms and problems, explain all abuses you have been subjected to, all attempts you have made to fix problems, and so on.

You want your doctors to believe you, understand what you are suffering and the cause of it. Workers’ Comp will force you to be evaluated by their own psychiatrist who will in all cases say you are a sneaking crybaby who is just trying to screw the system. It is best if your psychiatrist has experience in testifying in court and hearings and is not intimidated by adversarial arenas. Many are not up to the task and will fold if the other psychiatrist or fact finder is aggressive with them. A good attorney should be able to help you find a psychiatrist fit for this duty; being a healer is definitely not enough. Also, a good attorney knows exactly what he must have from the psychiatrist to prove your case and will work with the doctor to ensure there will be no surprises at the hearing. All of this medical backup is crucial in this type of case or a Social Security case, so see your doctors regularly, if you are suffering.

Finally, a comment about witness statements. They are painful to collect, very embarrassing ,and might even hurt relationships that had been good. You REALLY need them, though, so you have to go for it. Talk with the person who witnessed whatever or suffered it personally, asking them about details and reminding them of what happened or what they told you previously. Cover everything so it will be fresh in their minds. Let them know that you are going to write this info up because you don't want them or you to forget it; if you are already in a situation where you have hired an attorney, tell them your attorney needs to see what they know and you will be giving her a copy. Then do it ASAP and go back and show it to the witness, asking if they agree this is accurate. Make changes, if necessary. Then ask them to sign it to show it is accurate and give them a copy.

If they refuse to sign or to even meet with you about the written statement, don't argue, but be sure to confirm that you got it all correct. Then send them a copy in the mail with a note that this is the info they gave you on whatever date, and to let you know as soon as possible, in writing, if there is anything not correct in their statement.

People who have been helped by you in this way will practically never claim they don't remember later. They are now afraid of you, your attorney the fact finder, the subpoena and more; this is to the good. Why should the bully win yet more ground through scaring these people out of telling the absolute truth? People who are cowards can benefit from a little well-placed persuasion; but do keep your longer-range goals to yourself. Likely you will not know for certain when you are collecting witness statements whether the case will ever go to any sort of hearing. Most have final hour settlements.

Your attorney can decide later whether to subpoena that person to confront them with their statement at hearing, or not.

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