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My manager often walks up to my desk when I'm quietly working and says insulting things to me such as:

  • How is your baby? Do you even know? Do you care?
  • Why did you have a baby anyways?

In my country a working mother is a protected characteristic it falls under 'family status discrimination'.

There appears to be a huge rage of behaviors that fall under bullying/harassment. I was told by the worker's compensation board that it's not bullying or harassment because it's not threatening to my personal safety and it's not in public so it's not humiliating.

Other definitions of harassment include any annoying, offending or distressing conduct. This was from other employment standards websites.

How can I arrive at an understanding of whether my manager is actually harassing me?

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    @Kilisi: The OP does not say that she's married, or that if she is, her spouse is male. – jamesqf Apr 7 '16 at 5:33
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    Parts of this seem to have been copied verbatim from this closed question. If it is a real question, it should be asked of a lawyer or a location specified in which case we can only give a basic legal definition of workplace harassment. – Lilienthal Apr 7 '16 at 5:41
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    @Kilisi, I don't believe that is what you meant, but this kind of advices suggest that it's kind of okay to do that, unless the women are under the "protection" (support) of a man (typically their husband). And it isn't. – clem steredenn Apr 7 '16 at 6:05
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    @bilbo_pingouin While I find Kilisi's advice distasteful, it's still the preferred and sometimes only way of resolving a situation like this in many parts of the world. – Lilienthal Apr 7 '16 at 6:53
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    I edited this to remove the unnecessary commentary. I also included the country listed in this question which also contained the exact phrases used in this post. – enderland Apr 7 '16 at 12:16
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It sounds a lot like it is harassment and workplace bullying. Harassment or bullying is normally a systemic, extended behaviour that causes emotional or physical distress. If it's happened over a period of time, then it's certainly indicative of bullying or harassment. Harassment (for example, sexual harassment) does not need to occur multiple times. Bullying, however, requires evidence of multiple instances of the behaviour.

References here:

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety.

Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity.

Most importantly, if you haven't already done so, document EVERYTHING. Times, places, what was said. Written communication in particular is valuable evidence. If at all possible speak to anyone who may have overheard the comments and is willing to be a witness for you.

I would suggest taking it to your HR department. Use the words workplace bullying or workplace harassment. These are very specific terms that carry a legal weight behind them.

If you have no joy with your HR department, then it may well be worth consulting a lawyer. This is very definitely a sledgehammer approach, but it may be the only choice you are left with in the end. But really, make sure you have as much evidence as you can. Document, document, document.

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    I totally agree, it is definitely harassment in my books. – Kilisi Apr 7 '16 at 4:37
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    At least in the USA, it's also necessary to tell the problem individual that his comments are unwelcome before taking further steps. In writing is best, of course. – BobRodes Apr 7 '16 at 5:46
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    @BobRodes That request then becomes a part of the documented evidence. – Jane S Apr 7 '16 at 5:48
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    @JaneS Yes, indeed it does. My point is simply that it's part of standard protocol to do this as a first step, so the individual can't claim that he didn't know that it was offensive. – BobRodes Apr 7 '16 at 6:01
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    @Lilienthal last time I checked hostile work environment lawsuits were a thing even in the US. If I was a HR department and this was reported to me, I would have a very serious talk with the manager right away, and probably take some formal corrective action. – Magisch Apr 7 '16 at 7:30
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How can I arrive at an understanding of whether my manager is actually harassing me?

That depends on what your goal is in this context.

If you just want to feel like others agree with you that you are being harassed, then you can continue to poll folks here and elsewhere.

If you want to file a harassment lawsuit, then you should consult a labor law attorney in your locale.

If you want to file a case with your worker's compensation board, then you need to contact them and ask what their appeal process is. As you indicated, they already told you "that it's not bullying or harassment because it's not threatening to my personal safety and it's not in public so it's not humiliating". So ask them what you need to do if you disagree with their ruling/answer.

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How is your baby? Do you even know? Do you care?

Entirely inappropriate, and a decent HR department would turn that into a formal reprimand when reported.

The rest of the statements as you posted them range from merely none of his business to insulting and harassing. I would definitely report this to HR.

Anyways, I feel that this is harassment.

You're most likely right. Go to HR and lay this out. If you ever get something in writing (emails etc) keep that as evidence. Make note (note down) of every time he does this and present specific evidence to HR. A decent HR will see that this is a workplace discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen and take swift corrective action.

Also do tell him to stop before. Best done in writing (email) to create a paper trail.

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I will assume that the manager was told clearly by the OP that his comments were profoundly offensive/unacceptable and that the situation has progressed far beyond anything that could be addressed between manager/employee on their own.

Obviously the manager's behavior was egregious but what makes the situation utterly intractable is that going to HR or whatever "worker's compensation board" is, yielded a denial that it was even a problem (FWIW, I find that implausible and wonder if something more complicated is going on).

If the OP can't move laterally within the org, there really is no choice but to update the resume and get out. Legal remedies are "on the table" for folks that want to effectively make it their life's work to force "justice" upon the employer. The fact is, even in best-case scenarios, outcomes are indeterminate and payouts iffy.

The precise answer the question "what is harassment?" can be looked up, but does it really matter unless legal action is being seriously considered? All the OP really needs to recognize is that the boss is an asshole and HR is indifferent and/or incompetent.

  • What could it be? Something more complicated going on? Trying to get her to quit? – user1261710 Apr 7 '16 at 17:19

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