Having trouble persuading employees that workplace bullying yields dire consequences? Unable to convince managers to take the problem seriously? Then add this warning to your next training session: Employees who harass and abuse co-workers – and supervisors who turn a blind eye to such bullying – may face jail time.
Kenneth, a 17-year-old high school student, worked part time at a Dairy Queen in Missouri. After years of being bullied at school, the bullying continued at his job.
Kenneth’s 21-year-old manager appears to be the worst offender. She allegedly did all she could to make the boy’s time at work as miserable as possible. The manager repeatedly ridiculed the teen. She constantly assigned him tasks she didn’t have others do. One task included lying on the floor and cleaning it by hand. She allegedly threw food at Kenneth when he prepared it incorrectly and constantly called him names.
On December 22nd last year, Kenneth came home from a harrowing day at work. He shot and killed himself that same day.
At a county inquest, a panel of jurors concluded that Dairy Queen “negligently failed to properly train employees about harassment prevention and resolution.” They said Kenneth’s death was “due to harassment” and that the DQ manager was the “primary actor” in the bullying that pushed him over the edge. As a result, the county arrested the manager and charged her with second-degree involuntary manslaughter.
Advice About Workplace Bullying
Include bullying in your handbook and anti-harassment training sessions. Remind employees about the seriousness of these actions regularly throughout the year. Make sure your managers know they shoulder the responsibility to take affirmative action against any observed bullying. Explain the consequences of failing to do so, including termination…..or, in this case, criminal charges.