March 2nd, 2014
Bristol Press: CCSU professor urges law targeting workplace bullying
By Scott Whipple, The Bristol (CT) Press, March 1, 2014
NEW BRITAIN — Workplace bullying is back in the public eye.
According to a recent national survey, an overwhelming majority of Americans — 93 percent — support enactment of a new law that would protect workers from repeated abusive treatment at work. Only 1 percent strongly oppose such a measure.
“Because of the strong public support and stories from Connecticut citizens we are seeking sponsors in the state legislature to enact the Anti-Bullying Healthy Workplace Bill” said Katherine Hermes, state co-coordinator promoting the legislation.
Hermes, a professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, said “This could be a breakthrough year for us.”
Hermes is hoping to enlist the aid of Democratic state Rep. Peter Tercyak of New Britain. Tercyak, co-chairman of the General Assembly labor committee, said last week that the time has come for these bills to be introduced.
Though he has yet to hear from Hermes, he is “very open to the idea [of the initiative] and welcomes conversation with her about the problem of workplace bullying.”
Since the Workplace Bullying Institute introduced workplace bullying to the country in 1997, public awareness has risen to 72 percent.
The WBI defines workplace bullying as “abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or verbal abuse.”
Results of the survey indicate that 27 percent of all adult Americans have directly experienced bullying, 21 percent have witnessed it, and 56 percent of perpetrators are bosses. Yet despite this awareness, employers are doing little to stop workplace bullying.
WBI director Gary Namie says the majority — 72 percent — of employers in the survey reacted to complaints in inappropriate ways: 25 percent did not investigate, 31 percent either discounted it as not serious or considered it routine, 11 percent defended bullies, and 5 percent actively encouraged the abuse.
“Unfortunately the victims of this serious health-harming abuse are the ones asked to stop it,” Namie said. “If there were a law as in Canada and other industrialized nations, employers would have to protect workers.”
To date, 26 states have introduced a version of the anti-bullying bill. Connecticut was the 12th state to introduce a measure; the last time was in 2008, when now-retired Sen. Edith Prague introduced and held a public hearing for her bill, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Kevin Ryan, R-Norwich, and Roberta Willis, D-Torrington. The bill was withdrawn.
Since then other public hearings have been held, but no bill has been put forward.
A new petition with 165 signatures is still active. In past years, petitions with nearly 300 signatures have been presented to the legislature’s labor and public employees committee.
Mary Beth Nelsen of Oxford, state co-coordinator with Hermes, said she is counting on Tercyak’s support.
“Year after year, workers have made it clear that they want this law,” she said.
Katherine Hermes is the Connecticut State Coordinator for the Healthy Workplace Campaign working to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in U.S. states. To help in CT, visit the CT State Page and complete the volunteer form.
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