Policies of Colorado State University

University Policy

University Seal
Policy Title: Bullying in the Workplace Category: Human Resources
Owner: Vice President for University Operations Policy ID#: 3-6004-031
Human Resources
Web: http://www.hrs.colostate.edu/
Email: hr_service_center@mail.colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-6947

Also Contact:
Office of Support and Safety Assessment
Web: http://www.supportandsafety.colostate.edu/about-us
Phone: (970) 491-1350
Original Effective Date: 10/27/2015
Last Revision: 9/7/2017


Colorado State University is committed to maintaining an environment conducive to working and learning, in which the rights and dignity of all staff, faculty, and students of the university community are respected. The University prohibits behaviors that rise to the level of bullying, as described below. Workplace bullying is a form of psychological violence that disrupts the peaceable environment and can result in lower workplace morale and productivity, greater employee absenteeism and turnover, and higher stress and its related health issues.


This policy applies to all employees (“Covered Persons”), including, but not limited to, faculty, administrative professionals, state classified employees, student employees, volunteers, affiliates, and all other persons under the jurisdiction of the University to impose sanctions for behavior in the employment context, including agents, contractors and subcontractors. It is not intended to cover CSU students who are not employed by CSU (although a similar policy applies under the Student Conduct Code).

It is the responsibility of all Covered Persons to know and apply this policy.


Bullying in the context of the workplace is repeated mistreatment by words or actions that are intended to shame, embarrass, humiliate, degrade, demean, intimidate, and/or threaten an individual or group.

A person who is a target of bullying may not be the only one, or even an intended target; behavior that foreseeably places bystanders or unintended targets at risk or in fear, or causes them to feel threatened or humiliated, is within the scope of this definition.

The determination of whether bullying has occurred is highly dependent upon the facts and circumstances surrounding any given situation. Words or actions that may cause an individual discomfort or distress do not necessarily constitute bullying behavior.  Differences of opinion and routine conflicts or problems in workplace relationships are not bullying, as these may be part of working life. Behavior that is unfriendly, dismissive or curt is not bullying unless carried to such an extreme that a reasonable person would feel fearful, intimidated, or physically or mentally harmed by it. Criticism, complaints, or negative feedback are not considered bullying when they are reasonable, legitimate, and proportional, and directly address issues of workplace performance and/or conduct. Employees are expected to meet the reasonable performance and behavior standards of their position, and requiring a person to meet those expectations is not bullying under this policy.

Bullying can take a variety of forms and may include behaviors that are physical, verbal, nonverbal, direct or indirect, and may take place face-to-face, via written communications, or by electronic means. Some examples of bullying include, but are not limited to:

  • Shouting or yelling at, berating, ridiculing, or demeaning others;
  • Name calling and attacks on one’s character, using a person as the butt of jokes, using nicknames after being warned by the target that the nickname is considered to be offensive, or spreading gossip and rumors about the person to others;
  • Mocking, ridiculing, punishing, or putting someone down in front of others, constant unwarranted criticism, or making offensive remarks regarding a person’s known intellectual or physical attributes;
  • Persistently interrupting a person or otherwise preventing a person’s legitimate attempts to speak;
  • Undermining or sabotaging the work performance of others;
  • Spreading false or sensitive information about another;
  • Deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalizing a person from normal workplace activities;
  • Tampering with a person’s personal effects or work equipment; damage to or destruction of a person’s work product, work area, including electronic devices, or personal property;
  • Punishments or negative consequences designed primarily to shame, exclude, and/or draw negative attention from others;
  • Violent behavior, such as pushing, shoving, kicking, poking, or tripping; assault or threat of physical assault; making threatening gestures toward a person or invading personal space after being asked by the target to move or step away. Bullying that is physically violent may violate criminal law and is addressed in CSU’s Workplace Violence policy.
  • Making threats, either explicit or implicit, to the security of a person’s job or position when not part of a legitimate process by the supervisor to set expectations or engage in progressive discipline as outlined by the University. This may include, but is not limited to, manipulating the workload of a person in a manner intended to cause that person to fail to perform legitimate functions.


The University values the well-being of its employees and recognizes that bullying in the workplace can significantly impact a person’s dignity and their physical and mental health, as well as the overall experience of working at CSU. Colorado State University considers workplace bullying unacceptable and will not tolerate it under any circumstances. Bullying, as defined in this policy, is prohibited.

CSU has a policy that prohibits unlawful discrimination and harassment. While workplace bullying can be intertwined with unlawful discrimination and harassment, bullying behavior can occur apart from these other forms of misconduct.  In either case, workplace bullying is prohibited by this policy. Conduct that might be unlawful discrimination or harassment should be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity (970-491-5836 or oeo@colostate.edu).

  1. Freedom of Speech
    The University values and promotes freedom of expression and inquiry as provided under applicable law. Please refer to the University’s policies under References, below. Nothing in this policy is intended to limit or restrict a person’s First Amendment rights or rights to academic freedom; however, such rights do not include the right to engage in workplace bullying.

  2. Anyone impacted by bullying behavior may access support services from the Employee Assistance Program, by calling 1-800-497-9133.

  3. Violence
    The University is committed to providing a safe and secure campus environment for members of the CSU community, and workplace violence impedes such goals and endangers the entire community. Violent behavior is prohibited in or on any university facility or while participating in any university activity, as described in the University’s separate Violence in the Workplace policy.

    Any incident that involves a threat of violence or physical harm should be reported immediately and referred to the Office of Support and Safety Assessment for review and consultation, unless the threat is imminent, in which case the CSU Police (or local law enforcement having jurisdiction) should be called. In certain circumstances, the University may impose interim measures for the duration of the review, including but not limited to campus exclusion.
  1. Members of the university community shall cooperate with the reasonable inquiry and review process.

  2. Retaliation
    The University will not tolerate, and this policy expressly prohibits, retaliation against employees making good faith reports as provided for in this policy, even where the concerns are ultimately unsubstantiated. False reports of prohibited behavior that are found to have been made intentionally are also a violation of this policy. Policy violations may result in University disciplinary action in accordance with established policies and procedures, as appropriate.


  1. Any person who is a target of workplace bullying (an “impacted party”), or who witnesses or learns of an incident of workplace bullying at CSU, is strongly encouraged to report it to their supervisor, or, if the supervisor is involved, then to the next level supervisor in the reporting line. Reports may also be made by calling or emailing the Human Resources (HR) Solutions Partner (970-491-6947 or myhr@colostate.edu), who may bring the matter to the attention of other university officials, as appropriate. Individuals wishing to report a concern are encouraged to do so as soon as possible following the incident(s). 

  2. If the person reporting, the impacted party, and/or the alleged bully (the “responding party”) have different supervisors, then the HR Solutions Partner will contact the other supervisor(s) or a common higher level administrator and facilitate communications between those involved. At the discretion of the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or delegate, the matter may be elevated to other university officials, as appropriate.

  3. Those involved are encouraged to consider informal methods of resolution (see the Bullying Complaint Guidelines and Procedures attached to this policy). Resources to assist with an informal resolution include the HR Solutions Partner and the Office of the Ombuds. However, if informal resolution is not feasible or any party wishes to follow the formal process, a written complaint should be made to the impacted party’s immediate supervisor. (See the required Bullying Complaint Form attached to this policy). A formal complaint must be filed within 180 days of the incident of workplace bullying or, where the behavior is of an ongoing nature, within 180 days from the most recent incident. Either the impacted party or the supervisor of either party may file a formal complaint.

  4. The formal process requires that the supervisor(s) (or higher level university official) and the HR Solutions Partner make a jointly coordinated, reasonable inquiry into the facts, document what is discovered, and, if warranted, take appropriate action, which may include counseling those involved, initiating corrective action, or pursuing other employment action. If a supervisor of either party filed the complaint, that person cannot act as an investigator, and the matter will be referred to the next higher level supervisor.

  5. The steps to be taken in the reasonable inquiry and resolution process are described in the Bullying Complaint Guidelines and Procedures. The procedures include an administrative review process that any of the parties involved may initiate if the resolution of the matter is unacceptable to them.

  6. At the discretion of the CHRO, related complaints or incidents may be combined for purposes of inquiry, resolution, and/or review through the HR Solutions Partner.

  7. At the conclusion of the formal process, if the bullying was substantiated, it should be documented, and action should be taken promptly to address the situation, including disciplinary action or other employment action, if warranted, subject to applicable university policies and procedures.

  8. Substantiated bullying incidents should be taken into consideration in an employee’s annual performance review, subject to established evaluation procedures (see, e.g., Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual, section C.2.5 for faculty and D.5.5 for Administrative Professionals, and Human Resources Manual section 3 for State Classified). In particular, department heads need to be familiar with the restrictions in section C.2.5 of the Manual.

  9. In addition, the reasonable inquiry process may identify improper or problematic conduct that does not constitute bullying as defined and prohibited by this policy. In that situation, the supervisor should address the improper conduct, and such conduct may form the basis for action by the supervisor in accordance with university policies and procedures.

  10. Supervisors should inform participants in the bullying process that the Employee Assistance Program exists to provide help and resources to employees who are dealing with the impacts of workplace bullying and conflict.


Compliance with this policy is mandatory. For assistance with interpreting or applying its provisions, contact the designated Human Resources Solutions Partner.

Any person covered by this policy who engages in workplace bullying is subject to disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination or dismissal from the University, in accordance with applicable policies and procedures, including: for tenured faculty, section E.15 of the Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual; for state classified personnel, the Human Resources Manual section 3; and for administrative professionals, section D.5.5 of the Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual.

Student employees who are in violation of this policy are also subject to the procedures detailed in the CSU Student Conduct Code.

This policy is not intended to conflict with or supersede any other policy that might subject a violating party to disciplinary review, including but not limited to the Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation; the Policy on Workplace Violence; the CSU Student Conduct Code; the Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual; and existing Human Resources and departmental conduct policies.




Approved by Anthony A. Frank, President, Oct.27, 2015

Revision 2.00 approved by Anthony A. Frank, President, September 7, 2017