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I was bullied to the point that I was in fear for my safety and forced to resign. Is there any legal action I can take?

Wednesday May 2, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I was forced to resign from my job by two women who put me into a room and threatened and bullied me to the point that I was in fear for my safety. I was not the only victim. There were many others including other nurses and nursing assistants.
Is there any course of legal action I can take?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Christine,

Bullying is unacceptable in any workplace. Indeed, there should be adopted policies in your workplace that take a zero tolerance approach to such behavior, provide for discipline for those employees who engage in this type of behavior, and protect someone like you who reports such conduct pursuant to the policy. Of course, as you probably know, the burden rests with you and others who have experienced the same conduct to report it to the designated administrative officials in your facility.

In addition to reporting this internally at your workplace, you can file a police report based on the fact that your life is being threatened and you are fearful that you may be injured or worse. At a minimum, the conduct described suggests these individuals may be found guilty of an assault — conduct placing you in fear of a battery (actual touching of you in a threatening manner-hitting you, beating you).

You may want to speak to a nurse attorney or attorney who practices criminal law in order to determine how best to handle this situation, especially if you decide to file a police report. Document all instances of the bullying, who was involved, when and where it took place and what was threatened. This information is important if you report it to your administrative officials as well.

There are a wealth of resources on the Internet for you to review on this subject. Two of them are: the factsheet titled “Lateral Violence and Bullying In Nursing,” which can be found at www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/workplaceviolence, (Accessed April 28, 2012); and The Workplace Bullying Institute's article on bullying in the medical workplace at www.workplacebullying.org/2010/02/20/medical-workplace/ (Accessed April 28, 2012).


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.