Archive for the ‘Related Phenomena’ Category


Bullies at Weatherford College find support in Truth-averse 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Workplace bullying is endemic in healthcare and education, including higher education, for reasons discussed elsewhere at the WBI website.

Now comes a story of an inept community college administration, at Weatherford College, unwilling to even consider complaints from a long-time faculty member. Professor Karen Lopez Austen about the abusive conduct she faced in the Athletics Department.

The WBI 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey revealed that most employers deny complaints or justify them. In Austen’s case, they never considered the evidence she had assembled for the Board. An outsider can easily infer that the Administration, led by Kevin Eaton, had decided to not renew Dr. Austen’s contract, despite the legitimacy of her complaint.

So, as was her right, Dr. Austen filed a civil suit claiming sex and ethnicity discrimination along with retaliation for daring to hold the college accountable to operate lawfully and according to internal policies. She probably, like most bullied targets, especially highly educated individuals, expected to find justice in court. We constantly warn targets that justice is rarely found and almost never in court.

Remember, the college administrators refused to hear her complaint. The trial court judge did not allow Dr. Austen her day in court. Judges possess ultimate authority to grant access to their courts.

Judges have two avenues to end cases before they start — dismissal or summary judgement. Targets are typically plaintiffs who sue their employers, the defense. The defense files the motion to dismiss. Dismissal is based on technical details of the case that have not been addressed ensuring that the law cannot relieve the problem — e.g., “including lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or failure to join a necessary party.”

When the defense files a motion for summary judgement, it is saying that if the parties don’t dispute the material facts of the case, then the judge can determine whether the defendant is liable based simply on the pre-trial evidence assembled, if any exists. In the case Austen v. Weatherford College, there was no such agreement. The civil case was all about the disputed facts. The college said nothing happened. Dr. Austen said otherwise. Guess what. The judge in Federal District Court agreed with the college and threw out the case based on summary judgement.

In most cases, financially strapped terminated and unemployed targets go no further. But Dr. Austen filed an appeal with the federal Fifth Circuit. It was no surprise that the Appellate Court upheld (agreed with) the pro-administration ruling of summary judgement. Remember, no entity had yet considered the evidence that plaintiff Austen had put together to prove her complaint of discrimination.

Austen’s attorney, Mark Robinett, at the Austin Texas firm of Brim, Arnett & Robinett. P.C., was shocked by the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling of a 3-judge panel (Judges Smith, DeMoss and Higginson). What he found appalling was that his client’s evidence did not matter. In a general letter to the public, attorney Robinett wrote:

… the Court of Appeals held that her evidence did not matter, that she had failed to present a “prima facie” case or “rebut the legitimate reasons for termination (sic nonrenewal) offered by the college. The court also holds, as if it has some basis for making a fact finding (which is a “no-no” for an appellate court) that “(t)he six serious, documented instances of misconduct from the semester after the settlement agreement were the primary reasons for termination (sic nonrenewal).

Robinett, quoting the appellate court’s ruling stated

What matters is not the truth of the underlying complaints and reports, however, but rather whether the college could legitimately have relied on them in deciding to terminate Austen. The college could do so.

In fact, the college president, Eaton, mis-characterized Dr. Austen’s complaint to the Board. The Board never heard Austen’s perspective.

The injustices Austen faced was compounded by the 5th Circuit with its pro-institutional bias that claimed evidence did not matter. Robinett concluded that the court was doing a trial jury’s job without the benefit of live testimony or assessing the credibility of the Weatherford College administrators.

Read Attorney Robinett’s letter countering the assertion that Dr. Austen was not renewed for just reasons. She never got to tell her side of the story to an impartial court.

Read the ruling by the three judges that back legal scholarship and justice by decades.

Justice in America?

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Posted in Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Related Phenomena, Rulings by Courts, WBI Education, Workplace Bullying Laws | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



Futuristic PTSD treatment: planting explicit memories in the brain

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

This is the stuff of science fiction that gives medical ethicists pause. Can we erase traumatizing memories stored in our brains? Can happier memories be planted as a substitute for painful ones?

Researchers are hard at work with the newest technologies allowing the substitution. Here is a new study done with laboratory mice. The news article describing the research appears below.


Rodent Recall: False but Happy Memories Implanted in Sleeping Mice
Researchers at CRNS in Paris create artificial positive feelings in mouse’s memory for first time during sleep, highlighting possible new treatment for depression
By Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, March 9, 2015

Scientists have succeeded in creating false but happy memories in mice, in the first demonstration of memory manipulation during sleep.

In the study, positive feelings about a particular place were artificially written into the animal’s memory, which caused them to seek out that place in search of a reward when they woke up.

The discovery that emotional memory can be readily manipulated has echoes of the the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which Jim Carey’s character has every recollection about his failed relationship wiped clean using a fictional mind-reading technology.

The scientists say that the findings could pave the way for new treatments that would allow patients to overcome depression or deeply entrenched painful memories.

Karim Benchenane, the neuroscientist who led the research at the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) in Paris, said: “The idea is to use this as a tool for post-traumatic stress disorder.”

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Neuroscience & Genetics, Related Phenomena, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



For advocates who stop abusive conduct at work, it’s all about accountability

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Proponents for social justice in the #BlackLivesMatter movement seek accountability. The unethical county prosecutor misled the grand jury so it would not hold officer Darren Wilson responsible for the death of Michael Brown. Hence, the hands-up gesture of surrender that Brown used that Wilson ignored as he gunned Brown down on that Ferguson, MO street. Both Wilson and the prosecutor got away without being held accountable.

The wife and surviving children of Eric Garner also seek accountability. NYPD officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico combined a chokehold and physical restraint to kill Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk while a witness filmed the episode. The grand jury there also let the officers walk away without facing consequences for taking a life.

Then, in Cleveland, 12-y.o. Tamir Rice was gunned down within seconds by Timothy Loehmann as his patrol car rushed to the public park scene where Tamir was playing by himself. Loehmann’s employment record showed him to be too incompetent in handling firearms for a small city police squad before he found a job with the Cleveland PD. Rice is dead because the Cleveland PD ignored early career warning signs about Loehmann. He also failed his written entrance exam for Cleveland employment.

The headline-grabbing, media-saturation stories “surprised” white TV viewers who had no appreciation of the ongoing abuse black men face at the hands of police. They were Furthermore, because of implicit (unstated or attitudes possessed without explicit self-awareness) racism by whites, there was little sympathy for those murdered.

In fact, police violence apologists attempted to guide the public to make what is called the fundamental attribution error. Victims are degraded and treated as though they deserved their fate. The error is behind all “blame-the-victim” scenarios that we perpetuate in the aftermath of personal crimes: rape, campus sexual assault, and even murder victims.

It’s a tug of war between two competing explanatory models: fixing responsibility on perpetrators of violence or seeking faults in victims that made them somehow provocative and deserving their fate.

The overlap with bullied targets is easy to see. When they inform management about their ordeal, they are not believed and retaliated against for tarnishing the perpetrators’ image honed by years of ingratiating themselves to their executive sponsor. Management tends to “circle the wagons,” to grow increasingly defensive. Management should care about the impact of bullying on finances as well as the impact on employee health. Instead, managers tend to deny, discount and rationalize bullying.

Another insult to bullied individuals is the sham investigation done by the employer. Organizations cannot conduct unbiased investigations of themselves. The pressures for individual survival and covering up are too great. Furthermore, HR is a management support function. Therefore, it is management investigating incidents of wrongdoing primarily by managers. Truth is sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

When investigations conclude with an inability to assign responsibility (the infamous “she said/she said” tie) or the mischaracterization of the abuse as a “personality clash” between bully and target, targets are upset and frustrated. Their sense of justice was shattered by the bullying. A failure to find fault in perpetrators compounds the injustice.

Sadly, of the cases in which bullying has stopped, 77% of targets pay the price by losing the job they had no business losing or they transferred (11%) as if they had done something wrong. Perpetrators bully with impunity.

Bullied targets and witnesses simply want perpetrators to be held accountable.

Accountability is nearly impossible without a policy. It is also impossible when a policy exists but is not applied to all employees at all levels of the organization. Inconsistent or absent enforcement renders the policy ineffective. It is only a collection of positive words and thoughts.

Most policies are created in response to laws. Without laws that provide legal redress for bullied individuals, employers do not voluntarily address abusive conduct in comprehensive ways. They may engage in minimal training (as mandated in California starting in 2015) or be “encouraged” to adopt a policy (as suggested in TN law, effective in 2015). Strong laws will compel good policies, which in turn, make accountability more likely. Help enact the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill.

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Posted in Related Phenomena, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Debunking a Puritanical myth that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Monday, January 5th, 2015

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger
By Virgie Townsend, Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2015

WBI: In this frank and personally revealing essay, the author effectively counters the notion that all traumatic early experiences in life contribute to the construction of a stronger adult character. It’s noteworthy that 44% of bullied targets admit experiencing prior familial abuse in their lives before their workplace experiences with abuse (WBI IP 2013-H).

When I was 15, I attended a writing workshop with a girl who had been sexually abused by a family member, trauma that she explored in her poetry. She said she was offended when people told her: “I’m really sorry that happened to you.” She felt like they were saying they wanted to change her, so she’d reply: “Don’t be. It made me who I am today.”

I also grew up with violence, terrified of a parent who was verbally and physically abusive, and drove drunk with me and my siblings in the backseat. Sometimes this parent would threaten to choke me with a dog collar or would fire off shotgun rounds overhead for the fun of seeing the rest of the family cower. I am glad my classmate found a way to cope with her past, but I can’t be grateful for mine.

I would have been better off without that dog collar, without those years of fear. After such episodes, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. I repeatedly failed state math exams. My immune system was weak. As a child, I had frequent, unexplained fevers, which baffled my pediatrician and led him to test me for cancer.

It was difficult for me to make friends because of the pressure I felt to keep my home life a secret. Between the abuse and my innate shyness, I mostly avoided other kids, which was easy because I was home-schooled until ninth grade. I tried to stay quiet around my peers; I didn’t want to draw attention. And I constantly second-guessed how I acted around them, afraid that I might disgust or anger others, too.

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying & Health, Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, Related Phenomena, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



NFL’s new Personal Conduct Policy

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Poor (salary $44 million) NFL Commissioner Goodell. He has been castigated for his inconsistency of applying standards across teams and individual players, plagued by accusations that team owners interfered with criminal investigations, and hounded, and eventually reversed, by critics for overstepping his authority when leveling draconian punishment against domestic abuser Ray Rice. His incomplete response to the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal was to mandate a lame 1 hour “education session” held in each team’s locker room about respect. Half-ass solutions seem to be the NFL’s history.

In the aftermath of a spate of domestic violence incidents by NFL players and the assembly of a team of external experts in DV prevention comes a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

As the expert called in to assist Jonathan Martin’s legal team and to advise Ted Wells, the NFL’s investigator of the abuse levied by three of Martin’s teammates, I heard repeatedly the NFL mantra of “Protect the Shield.” The NFL logo is a shield of sorts and everyone affiliated with the NFL knows that the league of owners takes extraordinary steps to protect its commercial brand, often at the expense of its players without whom there would be no league.

Guided by the “Protect the Shield” principle, NFL commissioners and executives historically ignore player safety for the sake of the game. Witness tthe 2014 settlement of the lawsuit with thousands of former player-plaintiffs accusing the NFL of ignoring known neurological health hazards to which they were exposed causing them to suffer CTE. The settlement temporarily silenced complainants and allowed the NFL to roll into the 2014 season without the cloud of litigation overhead.

(more…)

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Related Phenomena, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Progress by workers against McDonald’s for higher wages

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) ruled that McDonald’s, the corporation, acting through its franchisees, violated the rights of its workers who were protesting for higher wages, specifically a $15 hourly wage.

Fast food workers have increasingly and visibly been conducting protests for higher wages and better working conditions for the past two years. Local owners of McDonald’s franchises have retaliated against those workers with punishment by reducing hours, threats, surveillance, interrogations and restrictions on talking with union organizers, and terminations.

Advocates for the workers filed 291 charges against corporate McDonald’s. The NRLB found merit in 78 of them while others are still under investigation.

Corporate McDonald’s claims it has no control over what local owners do. It wants to dodge responsibility for the denial of workers rights. However, the NLRB agreed with groups like Jobs With Justice that the corporation dictates to franchisees very detailed operating standards to maintain consistency across various McDonald’s locations.

So, when a local McDonald’s punishes workers for protesting peacefully and acting together to improve their work lives it is now assumed that the local owner is acting as an agent for the corporate McDonald’s. The NLRB ruled that the franchisees are joint owners.

Regional hearings are set to begin in early 2015 with a settlement deadline of March 30, 2015.

You can find the list of actual cases here.

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Related Phenomena, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



EEOC, Whistleblower Protections, and Federal Shutdown

Friday, October 4th, 2013

The Federal Shutdown is hurting the middle class and the working poor the most.

A co-coordinator for the California Healthy Workplace Bill Advocate group gave us some more news about the shutdown’s effects on the EEOC and whistleblower protections.
(more…)

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Posted in Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Related Phenomena, The New America | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Biz school study critiqued: Targets of workplace bullying told to be “nice”

Monday, July 8th, 2013

A study recently published drew much attention with headlines such as: Ugly and Nasty People Are Bullied At Work.

Here we go again. More blaming the victim from business school researchers. This time, it was Brent Scott from Michigan State and Timothy Judge from Notre Dame. In their conclusion, they said that their findings could be used by managers to know who was mistreated in their work groups so they, the managers, could help. Wow. As if managers who hear about bullying among coworkers respond with anything but “work it out between yourselves.” These researchers are out of touch with the reality of workplace bullying.

For us at WBI, the larger problem is that the study was not about workplace bullying at all. The term was not mentioned once in the entire article. It was the press relations office at Michigan State that synopsized the study as one involving workers bullied at work. Funny how critics of bullying are willing to tag along when they consider our topic a “hot” one.

Here is my detailed review of the pair of studies done by Scott and Judge. The negative conduct referred to in the article was actually “Counterproductive Work Behavior” (CWB) defined as “behavior intended to hurt the organization or other members of the organization.”

In reality, the accurate headline should have been.

Statistical Equation Suggests Agreeableness
inversely Correlated with Counterproductive Work Behaviors
When Attractiveness is Limited to Older Workers

Just doesn’t sizzle, does it?

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Commentary by G. Namie, Related Phenomena, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



WSJ: Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2012
Article with original artwork.

Don’t expect a big thank-you at work this week. While people may express gratitude when they gather at Thanksgiving, showing appreciation is far from traditional at the office.

Research suggests that employees who feel appreciated are more productive and loyal. But that message hasn’t reached many of those in charge. Some bosses are afraid employees will take advantage of them if they heap on the gratitude. Other managers believe in thank-yous but are nervous about appearing awkward or insincere—or embarrassing the employee they wish to praise.
A common attitude from the corner office is “We thank people around here: It’s called a paycheck,” says Bob Nelson, an employee-motivation consultant in San Diego.

The workplace ranks dead last among the places people express gratitude, from homes and neighborhoods to places of worship. Only 10% of adults say thanks to a colleague every day, and just 7% express gratitude daily to a boss, according to a survey this year of 2,007 people for the John Templeton Foundation of West Conshohocken, Pa., a nonprofit organization that sponsors research on creativity, gratitude, freedom and other topics.

(more…)

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Related Phenomena, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Fulton County Georgia next to get Workplace Bullying policy & procedures

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Thanks to Fulton County Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards (District 7), the county that encompasses metro Atlanta Georgia will have to address workplace bullying within the county workforce.

On Nov. 7, Edwards introduced his Resolution to establish a “county policy prohibiting bullying in the workplace.” He based much of the language on our Healthy Workplace Bill. The Resolution passed by a vote of 7-0.

(more…)

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Posted in Good News, Related Phenomena, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



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