Legal Consequences Of Verbal Abuse

What is verbal abuse? What does it do to a victim? What legal rights does a victim of verbal abuse have?

Verbal abuse affects millions of people in the workplace. What is it? It is the use of language to humiliate, insult or threaten someone. Verbal abuse is often repeated frequently in order to demean the victim.

Some examples of types of verbal abuse:

  • Crude and inappropriate jokes
  • Hooting or hollering
  • Sexual innuendos or teases
  • Insults or rumors
  • Screaming, scolding or swearing
  • Sarcasm and mockery
  • Whispering

What often happens to a victim of verbal abuse?

In the workplace, a victim often feels that their dignity is threatened. They can feel extreme psychological and emotional pain. They could feel stressed, threatened, angry and depressed. It can affect their work. Victims may lose motivation and have difficultly focusing on completing their work. It can create a hostile work environment. This abuse can affect not just the direct victims, but also coworkers or customers who are around when the abuse occurs.

What are the legal actions victims may pursue?

Victims who have asked their abuser to stop the abuse to no avail may complain to supervisors or human resources if their company is large enough. If the company does not take the complaints seriously, victims who feel threatened and like their security as at risk may pursue legal action.

When is it a crime?

If a person is aggressively threatening someone with physical harm (must be a threat they could carry out) and making them feel like their life is in immediate danger they may be committing verbal assault against that person and can be prosecuted.

If the verbal abuse is directed at a person's protected class, they may file a complaint with the EEOC for discrimination. For more information about protected classes and discrimination, click here.


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