February 4th, 2013

The corporation that protected workplace abusers

Imagine the largest U.S. corporation in its industry harboring abusive managers, 124 of them, despite complaints from people closest to those harmed and even inquiries from the police. It was the kind of abuse that can permanently traumatize individuals and families. Further imagine excusing the accused (because they said they did not do it) and allowing them to continue to work with no penalties or accountability for the wrongs committed. When evidence rose to undeniable levels, the CEO never admitted what the abusive managers did, never helped the people harmed, but chose to move offenders out of state or out of the country! Still no punishment. And if that wasn’t outrageous enough, imagine that the CEO claims credit for an “evolved” attitude toward the abuse after his retirement only after public revelations of his unconscionable decisions.

The corporation: Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest with 4 million parishioners

The CEO: Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, 1985-2011, who defends his actions on his blog

The abuses: By 124 priests who raped and molested young boys who trusted authorities in their churches

The coverup: Mahoney moved priests some to Mexico, Spain and to other archdioceses across the country without acknowledging the abuses committed to the families

The evidence: 12,000 pages showing steps taken to deal with child abusers within the priesthood

The public reveal: By the Los Angeles Times

I say all this not to shame the Catholic Church in America. It’s been a 30 year sordid tale that continues to be revealed. And it happened across the globe. Ruth and I were in Adelaide, South Australia in 2002 when the story broke about the nation’s Governor General who was a bishop. As bishop, he too hid priests who abused parishioners. It was the church’s M.O.

The important lesson is that the Church responded much like a sectarian corporation to allegations of abuse:

• denial of the accusation,
• uncritical acceptance of the abuser’s explanation,
• modest inadequate steps to address it, then full-blown cover up,
• no attention paid to the harm inflicted on victims, no attempt to restore the victim’s health or to make them “whole”,
little to no corporate-delivered punishment for abusers, and
• safe retirement for executives.

Here at WBI, we clearly define workplace bullying as health-harming abusive mistreatment. It is not trivial “eye rolling.” It is an interpersonal assault that in its severest form can be potentially traumatizing. It is repeated and deliberate.

Abuse by priests is sexual rape or molestation. Abusive conduct at work, a.k.a. workplace bullying by our definition, is not physical. Sexual assaults at work are covered by employment discrimination and criminal laws.

That is the important distinction. Our version of abusive conduct is a form of psychological violence, stopping short of physical abuse.

In our proposed law, the Healthy Workplace Bill, legal action is reserved for misconduct that meets the criterion of health-harming consequences. It is labeled “abusive conduct,” not bullying.

Though parishioners who were abused as children by priests were not technically “employees,” they were participating in Church activities — as altar boys, camp attendees, youth on a field trip — with adult priests as supervisors in authority roles.

So it is in corporations, hospitals, government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and universities — abuse of employees is hidden from view and abusers go unpunished.

Though the abuse of workers does not involve children or sexual predators, it too deserves to be brought to light with offenders held accountable and employers who harbor abusers shamed.


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This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 5:00 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines. 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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