Frequently Asked Questions - Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy

If I want to make a report of bullying, who do I contact? Can my conversation about the process be kept confidential?

A report of bullying can be made to your supervisor, another manager, Employee and Labor Relations (askeru@berkeley.edu(link sends e-mail) and labrel@berkeley.edu(link sends e-mail)), your HR Partner/Representative (find yours at sharedservices.berkeley.edu(link is external)), or your union representative. HR is a compliance office that cannot guarantee confidentiality.  However, HR will only disclose information on a “need to know” basis. For complete confidentiality contact the Staff Ombuds Office (510-642-7823).

What will happen once I make a report of bullying?

The University will take steps to address the matter. Individuals making reports will be informed about options for resolving potential violations of this policy. These options may include facilitated early resolution or formal investigation.

Does my report have to be in writing?

No. It may be helpful to provide information in writing, but you may make an oral report. If the oral report contains sufficient information the University will respond as it would for a written report. “Sufficient information” will differ from case to case. Generally, it is important to try to include the name of the individual alleged to have engaged in bullying behavior, the target(s) of the conduct, any witnesses to the conduct, and specific examples of the conduct.

Does an employee need to label an incident as “bullying” for a manager to have to report it to HR?

“Managers and supervisors who observe bullying behavior or receive a report of bullying are required to address such behavior immediately and notify their HR Partner/Representative.” If a manager or supervisor observes bullying behavior they are required to address/report the behavior even if an employee has not labeled an incident as “bullying.” However, if a manager or supervisor has not observed the behavior, they are only required to address/report the behavior if they receive a report of bullying.

What if I report bullying behavior and the behavior continues or gets worse?

If the behavior continues or gets worse, contact your supervisor or the office to which you made the original complaint. If this is not effective or if you feel that you are being retaliated against for reporting or being a witness to a report, contact Employee/Labor Relations (askeru@berkeley.edu(link sends e-mail) and labrel@berkeley.edu(link sends e-mail)).

How are employees who come forward protected from retaliation?

An employee who files a bullying complaint is entitled to the same protections as an employee who files any other type of complaint (e.g., discrimination, whistleblower, etc.). The Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy prohibits retaliation against any person who reports bullying, assists someone with a report of bullying or participates in an investigation or resolution of a bullying complaint.

Is severe and egregious behavior needed to constitute a bullying violation?

Not necessarily. The policy requires a “pattern of repeated behavior that a reasonable person (a person in the same or similar circumstances) would find hostile, offensive and unrelated to the University’s legitimate business interests.” A single physical, verbal or written act or behavior generally will not constitute bullying, unless it is especially severe and egregious.

What are some examples of severe and egregious behavior?

Examples of severe and egregious bullying behavior may vary; however, case law examples include: 

  • Placing a dead mouse in a soda can from which someone is drinking
  • Telling someone that their child or spouse has died even though the speaker knows this is untrue

If someone targets multiple people through one-time-incidents, is that also considered bullying?

Possibly. Targeting multiple people through one-time incidents may constitute bullying if the incidents represent a pattern of repeated behavior that reasonable people would find hostile, offensive and unrelated to the University’s legitimate interests. Establishing a pattern does not necessarily require that all of the offensive behavior be directed at one individual.

Can a supervisor be found in violation of the Bullying Policy even when a complainant has performance issues?

Yes. At issue is whether the supervisor engaged in a pattern of repeated behavior that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive and unrelated to the University’s legitimate business interests. Depending on the circumstances, a complainant’s performance might be relevant to the analysis but it does not disprove bullying. It is important for both sides to understand that performance management is a legitimate part of working relationships, and that feedback, performance evaluation and direction must be given in a professional and respectful fashion.

Can I still disagree with someone or suggest an alternative way of proceeding on a project without violating the Bullying Policy?

Yes. Bullying behavior must be distinguished from behavior that may be unpleasant or unwelcome by the recipients yet is appropriate in order to carry out workplace responsibilities. Differences of opinion, interpersonal conflicts, and occasional problems in working relations are an inevitable part of working life and do not necessarily constitute workplace bullying.