What can I do if my boss is bullying me at work?

My boss often makes insulting jokes about me in front of my colleagues. I’m worried I might put my job in jeopardy if I confront them about it. What are my options?

Morgan

Morgan

Vancouver, BC

Being bullied or harassed in the workplace isn’t something you have to put up with — even if it’s coming from your boss. Workplace bullying and harassment is any type of behaviour that’s intended to intimidate or humiliate. It generally involves an ongoing pattern of behaviour. However, a single incident can, in some cases, also constitute bullying or harassment.

Raising your concerns

With most cases of bullying or harassment in the workplace, having a conversation with the bully and telling them to stop is a good starting point. But when the bully is your boss, it’s understandable to be hesitant. That said, it’s possible your employer may not be aware of how their jokes are landing on you. Explaining things from your perspective may be enough to make them stop. Here are tips for having a difficult conversation with your employer

If reaching out directly to your employer doesn’t resolve things — or you aren’t comfortable doing so — you have other options. Under BC law, all employers are required to have a policy in place for handling worker complaints of bullying and harassment. This includes complaints against the employer. For example, the policy may say you have to report it to someone else in a supervisory role. Or to your HR department (if your workplace has one). If your workplace is so small that there isn’t anyone else to bring your complaint to, it’s a good idea to make a written complaint to your boss regardless. This shows you’ve done your part in resolving the issue, and can help prove that your employer knew about the issue. It can also be useful down the road if you take further steps. 

Reaching out to WorkSafeBC

If your complaint isn’t addressed as required by your workplace’s internal procedure (or if there’s no procedure in place), you can reach out to WorkSafeBC. Call their prevention information line to discuss the incident with an officer. They can offer information, answer questions, and direct you to resources. Afterwards, you can submit a questionnaire, and the officer may make further inquiries. WorkSafeBC’s website explains the process. There’s also a Workers Advisor’s Office that may assist you with your complaint.

Additional steps

Depending on the nature of your employer’s conduct, you may have more options. For example, you may be able to make a human rights complaint if their behaviour is discriminatory. Or if the work environment has become so toxic that you can’t reasonably be expected to stay, you may have a claim for constructive dismissal

For more, listen to Lynda Foran of WorkSafeBC and lawyer David Brown speak to this question here.

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Ascent Employment Law
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in July 2022

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