July 12th, 2011

New Bill Targets Workplace Bullying

By Kate Rogers, Published July 12, 2011, FOXBusiness

Americans face bullying long after they have left the playground with a startling 35% of adults either been bullied or currently experiencing bullying at work, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

Workplace bullying is defined by the WBI as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one of more persons by one or more perpetrators,” and includes verbal abuse, offensive conduct and behaviors (including nonverbal) that are threatening, humiliating or intimidating and work interference or sabotage, which prevents work from getting done.

These actions have serious side effects for victims, according to the WBI, including heart disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Now lobbyists are increasing their calls for state lawmakers to pass anti-bullying in the workplace legislation.

Dr. Gary Naime, national director of the Healthy Workplace Campaign, started lobbying for anti-bullying laws in 2003. Right now, his “Healthy Workplace Bill,” has been introduced in 21 states with New York the closest sate to passing it into law. The New York bill has 43 current co-sponsors, and a new Senate version of the bill is in the process of being written. A companion Senate bill was introduced and referred to the Labor Committee in March 2011.

For employers, the bill defines an “abusive work environment” and requires proof of health harm by licensed professionals. It gives employers reason to terminate or sanction offenders and requires plaintiffs to use private attorneys.

“It’s very soft on employers, and will give them rewards for taking care of bullying voluntarily,” he says. “If they do, they have no responsibility – [legally] they are freed.”

For workers, the New York bill provides an avenue for legal action against “health harming cruelty at work,” and allows a victim to sue the bully as an individual. It also holds the employer accountable by allows for restoration of lost wages and benefits, and compels employers to prevent and correct future instances.

According to a 2010 WBI survey, 15% of workers reported they have witnessed bullying in the workplace. With that said, 50% of respondents reported they have never seen or “don’t know” what bullying is.

“It’s not that they don’t see it, but what they do see they do not consider unacceptable,” Naime says. “They consider it routine—not negative or bad. It’s much more severe than trivial stuff. It is repeated malicious verbal abuse, threats, humiliation and work sabotage. That is pretty severe.”

As the national sponsor of the Healthy Workplace Bill, Naime says he is not looking for lawsuits to bring an end to bullying in the workplace. His goal is to have bullying treated the same way as harassment in the office.

“Employers are ignoring it and HR has dropped the ball—72% of bullying is done by management.”

Also according to the Institute, once a person is targeted by a bully, they have a 64% chance of either being fired or quitting his/her job.

Polly Wright, senior consultant at HR Consults Inc., a management and human resource consulting and training firm, says bullying in the workplace is extremely common. She remembers being bullied by a manager at her first job out of college, but she stayed at the job because she had no other options.

“I was married to that job for financial reasons,” she says. “Bullying is just basically harassment. And sometimes you don’t even realize it is happening. As employers we should be handling it the same as we would unlawful harassment.”

Bullying in the workplace can begin with cliques forming in the office, or by hiring someone with a bad temper or anger-management issues. Wright says many of the Human Resource policies she has recently created for businesses have included wording about bullying in the workplace.

All managers in a company should be trained on what the legal line of harassment actually is, and make sure employees aren’t crossing this line, Wright says. Also, employees may try to work out the issue amongst themselves, but once HR is brought into the picture an investigation will be launched, she says.

“I really think that it takes a toll on morale, to the point where employees are so disengaged in their work environment they are just going through the motions,” Wright says. “They will go through their day trying to have the least amount of interaction with their bully as possible.”

Although Wright condemns bullying, she is not in favor of the Healthy Workplace Bill and says it can be addressed in already-established policies, like those that deal with harassment.

“It will be another burden on employers,” she says. “Hopefully we keep it out of final legislation—employers should just address [bullying] in conjunction with harassment. We shouldn’t need a law to tell us that.”

If a worker is being bullied in a family business, or small company, Naime advises to leave right away, and says changing the culture in a smaller office is often more difficult than in a corporation setting.

“All you can do is try and make it, but in a small business you are trapped,” he says. “In a bigger company there are more layers and you do have a chance of convincing someone that the idiot needs to go, not you.”

via New Bill Targets Workplace Bullying – FoxBusiness.com.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Fairness & Social Justice Denied, WBI in the News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Constance says:

    superb article above by Kate Rogers, New Bill Targets Workplace Bullying. 12Jul2011

  2. Jay Jacobus says:

    Ms. Wright is wrong about established policies.

    As far as I can tell, the established policy is: “We have no legal obligation to help you and we won’t.”

    • ELizabeth says:

      Whatever happened to leadership? Is this what you want from your employers…how productive can an employee be if they are bullied?

      This is very real.

  3. Eva says:

    “If a worker is being bullied in a family business, or small company, Naime advises to leave right away, and says changing the culture in a smaller office is often more difficult than in a corporation setting.”

    For many of us, this is our reality. No choice in this economy.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      Clearly the bully does not have to defend himself. He simply ignores the buzz about himself and continues with his aggressive actions.

      The victim, on the other hand, does not get a chance to defend himself. The bully does not need to prove that the vicitm deserves harsh treatment. The bully simply applies whatever level of intimidation he chooses and the victim must find a way out.

      All efforts to resolve issues falls on the vicitm. The angry bully need not respond positively to anything the vicitm tries to do.

      In fact, the bully will sometimes mock the victim’s ineffective actions.

      • Jay Jacobus says:

        If you attempt to resolve your boss’ anger by being an actuary, that would be your voluntary choice. Not his.

      • Jay Jacobus says:

        I did feel pressure to be an actuary. But that was probably my association with intimidating, manipulative actuaries who reminded me of my intimidating, manipulative boss.

        Of course the actuary on the corporation’s board of directors added to my suspicions.

      • Jay Jacobus says:

        I wonder what “already established policy” will solve this problem for me?

        Sounds like BULL to me.

      • Jay Jacobus says:

        But these are generlaizations. Let me just say that this only applies to intimidating, manipulative actuaries.

        Those actuaries who are not manipulative nor intimidating are not my targets. Those actuaries don’t know the troubles I’ve seen and, therefore, can’t be sympathetic.

  4. Esme Viljoen says:

    If you do have a computer, have I discovered an excellent way to make a recording of the actual bullying, whilst being at work. I was often advised by an advocate, just making notes of the actual incidences, is not enough, but by pushing the record button, will create a more effective awareness of a very bad situation. This will even decrease the time and effort spend in Law suites.

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