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      Bullying in the workplace

      Bullying in the workplace is a problem that lawyers say is more common than most people think. Bullying can create a hostile work environment, which makes people miserable and hurts work productivity.

      Bullying is immoral, but not illegal according to Marquette lawyer Steve Pence of Pence and Numinen. When abuse is based on discrimination, like with race, sex, or disability, or a legally protected right like whistle blowing and filing a claim, lawyers say then the law can defend a victim. Pence has defended hundreds of workplace bully victims.

      "I have seen cases where the emotional and physical consequences are life-changing and sometimes irreparable," said Pence.

      A bully humiliating, mocking, or ignoring a coworker can create a hostile work environment, leading to low morale, poor productivity, or sometimes the loss of a loyal or good employee.

      On Facebook, Gretchen Caspary Tolksdorf says, "My advice to anyone suffering bullying in the workplace is to leave. If it's tolerated, it's not likely to ever get better."

      Experts say that you should confront a bully. If problems persist, then report it to human resources, and the bully may be disciplined or fired. Lawyers say many incidents go unreported for fear of consequences from either the bully or management, but Marquette General Hospital's H.R. Department says that problems need to be reported.

      "Employees should not be afraid of reporting issues that they have...Try to work out the issue with the individual, but if that doesn't work, then they certainly should take the next step," said David Smith, MGH Human Resources Senior Director.

      Ultimately, they agree that bullied victims should never ignore the problem.

      "Unfortunately it is common and it is a problem, but it is something that most employers would attempt to address if it was brought to their attention," said Susan MacGregor, Employment Law Attorney for Kitch Firm in Marquette.

      Before confronting a bully, experts say to document the incidents and get a witness. It's also a good idea to have a witness present when initially confronting the bully.