US employers react to laws. The HWB will convince employers to prevent & correct health-harming abusive conduct. The WBI HWB campaign began in 2001. WBI State Coordinators create groups of Healthy Workplace Advocates to lobby legislators.
From June 1997 until the present, the Namies have led the first and only U.S. organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying that combines help for individuals via our websites & over 10,000 consultations, telephone coaching, conducting & popularizing scientific research, authoring books, producing education DVDs, leading training for professionals-unions-employers, coordinating national legislative advocacy, and providing consulting solutions for organizations. We proudly helped create the U.S. Academy of Workplace Bullying, Mobbing & Abuse.
Sacramento jurors, in a $1.1 million verdict Wednesday, sided with a state corrections employee who claimed her higher-ups did little or nothing to protect her from threats made by one of her subordinates, then retaliated against her when she complained of the threatening treatment.
The threat was a death threat, of bringing a gun to work, not a minor act.
Jurors awarded Onalis Giunta, a supervising dental assistant at Folsom State Prison when she filed the 2012 lawsuit against California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, $990,000 for noneconomic losses and mental suffering along with another $107,000 in past and future earnings, in their verdict, court documents showed.
It was not known Thursday whether there were plans to appeal the verdict.
Giunta in the lawsuit characterized the man identified in court documents as Serge Protsyuk, as a problem employee who often ran afoul of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation rules and regulations.
Protsyuk was a former coworker of the newly promoted supervisor, Giunta. He never respected her authority and was coddled by two male supervisors of hers who undermined her role. He aggressively disobeyed rules that he felt did not apply to him, daring her to discipline him.
Giunta alleged that the employee threatened to bring a gun to work after disciplinary action in November 2010. Protsyuk followed the alleged gun threat with months of more intimidation, the lawsuit alleged, forcing Giunta to take a yearlong, doctor-ordered stress leave.
Yes, you read that correctly. After he threatened revenge on her for an unfavorable evaluation by bringing a gun to work, the warden and security staff who had been told of the threat that night planned to search him the next morning when Protsyuk arrived for work. NO ONE ever called Giunta that night to warn her of the threat made against her. Protsyuk was frisked the next morning and allowed to go work as usual. Giunta was told about the threat AFTER she saw Protsyuk walk past her office window! No suspension. No punishment. And Giunta had to work with him for another six months without his removal. Giunta was traumatized. All the while, the warden had decided that no violation of the strict zero-tolerance Violence Prevention Policy had occurred. No investigation of Giunta’s complaint about the violation was undertaken.
The cover story of Counseling Today magazine is about bullying. A significant portion of that article, written by Laurie Meyers, features an interview with WBI’s telephone coach for bullied targets, Jessi Eden Brown. Jessi maintains a private practice in Seattle in addition to continuing to provide coaching for targets who seek her advice after discovering her services posted at this WBI website.
Jessi is the most expert advisor to targeted individuals in the U.S. Her fees are inexpensive and worth every penny. Time precludes offering free advice, so please don’t insult her and ask. [Neither can WBI offer free advice by phone as it did for 18 years.] Here is Jessi’s information page.
Bullying isn’t confined to childhood or adolescence. Adults can experience bullying too, particularly in the workplace. Bullying in the workplace involves less obvious behavior than does school bullying and can be almost intangible, says Jessi Eden Brown, a licensed professional counselor and licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in Seattle.
“Bullying in the workplace is a form of psychological violence,” says Brown, who also coaches targets of workplace bullying through the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), an organization that studies and attempts to prevent abusive conduct at work. “Although popular media theatrically portray the workplace bully as a volatile, verbally abusive jerk, in actuality, the behaviors tend to be more subtle, insidious and persistent.”
Instead of shoving and name-calling, Brown says, workplace bullying includes behavior such as:
– Stealing credit for others’ work
– Assigning undue blame
– Using public and humiliating criticism
– Threatening job loss or punishment
– Denying access to critical resources
– Applying unrealistic workloads or deadlines
– Engaging in destructive rumors and gossip
– Endeavoring to turn others against a person
– Making deliberate attempts to sabotage someone’s work or professional reputation
“It’s the fact that these behaviors are repeated again and again that makes them so damaging for the target,” she explains. “The cumulative effects and prolonged exposure to stress exact a staggering toll on the overall health of the bullied individual.”
What’s more, those bullied in the workplace often stand alone, Brown notes. “While the motivating factors may be similar between workplace bullying and childhood bullying, the consequences for the bully and the target are unmistakably different,” she says. “In childhood bullying, the institution — the school — stands firmly and publicly against the abuse. Teachers, staff, students and administrators are thoroughly trained on how to recognize and address the behavior. Students are given safe avenues for reporting bullying. Identified bullies are confronted by figures of authority and influence — teachers, administrators, groups of peers, parents. When the system works as intended, there are consequences for the bully, as well as resources and support for the target.” Continue reading this article… »
On Jan. 1, 2015 California started mandating training in Abusive Conduct for supervisors (in employers with 50 or more workers). The definition was lifted verbatim from the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) authored by Suffolk University Law Professor David Yamada.
WBI and its national network of volunteer State Coordinators has been lobbying for the complete HWB since 2001. Timid, business lobby-yoked state lawmakers are afraid to take a stand for workers who suffer health harm as the result of workplace bullying. Of course, the HWB does not include the phrase “workplace bullying.” The term used is “abusive conduct.”
California and Utah have mandated training. Utah’s 2015 legislation is superior to California’s, though it applies only to state agency employers. Utah requires that employers describe how they will provide protections to employees. California, at first, simply mandated the training. And the topic of abusive conduct, which is still legal until the full HWB is enacted into law in California, is to be added to mandated training on the employer’s commitment to the prevention and resolution of illegal sexual harassment. Oops. This is confusing to nearly everyone. Many HR types hardly understand the power of having protected group status membership or not.
We worry that employees will conflate bullying (abusive conduct) with illegal forms of harassment, including exposure to a hostile work environment. They will falsely believe that abusive conduct is currently illegal because of the pairing with illegal forms of discrimination that violate state and federal laws.
Now comes an April 1 amendment to California Fair Employment and Housing Act Regulations. The section below shows the intended clarification regarding the content of the Abusive Conduct related to Government Code section 12950.1(g)(2).
The good news: the deleterious impact on the targets of abusive conduct must be discussed. Naturally, the negatives for the employer are to be included.
The bad news: the regulation lifts most of our HWB definition of abusive conduct but omits the critical element describing that personal health harm can be manifested. And time devoted to abusive conduct training should be “meaningful.” Still vague.
Read the amended, clarifying regulation for yourself.
The SCOTUS is short one member since the passing of Antonin Scalia. The tie vote allows previous appellate court verdicts to stand. As described in earlier posts — here and here, the cocky anti-union plaintiffs were so confident of using SCOTUS to bankrupt public sector unions that they asked both trial and appellate courts to rule against them so they could expedite the process to get to the Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia’s death was unexpected. His vote would have delivered an anti-union majority vote. The tie, however, allows the lower court decision (made at plaintiffs’ request with no evidence ever presented as in a real trial) to stand. The anti-union plaintiffs lose. Unions win (for now). Here is the entire SCOTUS decision.
C-Suite Talking Points for HR About Workplace Bullying
By Gary Namie, PhD
Assumptions: (1) No anti-bullying initiative can succeed without support from the top. (2) It will be the job of HR to take that message up the ladder.
Here is a list of reasons senior leaders should care. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• Workplace Bullying is a costly litigation nightmare. Even though a low proportion of incidents of bullying also have an aspect of discrimination (20%), the public erroneously believes hostile work environment protections apply to everyone. Therefore, too many individuals shop for an attorney willing to either threaten or file a lawsuit or EEOC formal complaint. At the very least, a defense has to be mounted, or settlement paid, or trial and penalty expenses absorbed.
• Recruitment & retention of highly skilled workers undermined. The typical bullying scenario finds the best & brightest targeted for baseless, mindless persecution until they either voluntarily quit or are driven away. This is unwanted, unnecessary and PREVENTABLE turnover.
• A tarnished reputation as one of the “worst places to work” on the street (mainly in social media) follows the expulsion of highly qualified workers. In turn, recruitment is made more difficult.
• Bullying causes stress-related diseases. Allowing it to continue unabated directly contradicts the internal commitments to wellness and employee well being. In fact, research clearly shows the causal role of personalized bullying in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, changes in the brain that lead to irreversible behavioral dysfunction that passes for incompetence to the naive observer, life shortening interference with DNA cellular replication, and doubling the rate of suicidal ideation. Why should we allow the health-harming misconduct to continue knowing that our staff and associates are being so severely impaired? Continue reading this article… »
Bullying has gotten a lot of attention . Most of the focus has been on children but we know that children learn from us, how we treat each other and how we use power in relationship.
It is urgent that we are taking bullying in school seriously. It is not a developmental stage or a phase of childhood it is a lack of better tools, understanding, accountability and developmental capability. It is not something to be ignored until they grow out of it.
Children who are targeted suffer terribly and the trauma can follow them for decades. Some turn their trauma inward leading to low self esteem, under-performance and depression. While others channel it outwardly and become bullies themselves.
When childhood bullies grow up without accountability meted by their peer groups, families or the criminal justice system they go to work and continue their pattern of abuse.
That is why American workplaces have a bullying problem.
It is not a surprise, then, that 93% of those same people polled would also support legislation that makes it unlawful.
When an adult has been abused so relentlessly that they have severe anxiety and can no longer work we assume they must have been weak willed, mentally ill or have a “victim mentality.”
But that is looking in the wrong direction. The distorted thinking and mental illness of people who are emotionally undeveloped, unstable or disordered and who are inflicting abuse on others is the problem. People who lack the self awareness, emotional capability and communication skills resort to blame and scapegoating.
Because there is no law defining it or how to respond, most employers ignore the perpetrator to protect liability allowing workplace bullying to continue. It is a failure of will that we can and must demand be changed. Bullying is abuse.
There are two companion bills that were introduced this legislative session in Washington State that need your support:
Senate Bill 6532 and House Bill 2894 would “provide legal recourse for employees who have been harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically, by being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments; and provide legal incentives for employers to prevent and
respond to mistreatment of employees at work.”
Please contact your legislators as well as the sponsors of the bills and let them know you appreciate their consideration of these bills because you see the urgency to do something to help employees and employers in WA State. Find a comprehensive list of legislators here – http://healthyworkplacebill.org/states/wa/
Let them know you believe this demands our attention now.
We need legislation to protect employees from the worst kinds of bullying and abuse the kind that ruins lives and protect the bottom line and liability of employers who do the right thing.
We have to change our belief that abuse is normal and inevitable. When someone is bullied on the job that is not correcting a problem it is the problem.
Washington is leading the nation in so many ways. Let’s lead the nation in modeling healthy workplaces. The costs to everyone are too high to ignore it any longer.
Pamela Raphael is a Mental Health Counselor in Seattle specializing in the effects of traumatic workplace and relationship abuse. She is a former board president of Real Change and is currently serving as the WA State Coordinator for the Healthy Workplace Bill, a national initiative of the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Over the years we have heard the personal tales of well over 10,000 individuals, met thousands more at speaking and consulting engagements and gone in-depth with litigants for whom I’ve provided expert witness services. So, forgive us for not personally bonding with many of those who have been bullied.
Emelise Francesca Aleandri was the exception and an extraordinary woman. Ruth and I came to know not only her plight but her spirit. Our relationship with her began with her 2004 legal case in federal court against the City University of New York (CUNY). The culprit was a jerk named Joseph Scelsa who directed the Calandra Italian-American Institute at CUNY. Scelsa’s wrath impacted several people, including Emelise and her co-plaintiff Gloria Salerno, a clinical psychologist, who had counseled students for decades successfully and without interference until Scelsa meddled with her too. Both women claimed sexual harassment by Scelsa within CUNY before filing in court.
The definitive attributes that bonded Emelise to Gloria was their Italian heritage and their activity in women’s advocacy group that Scelsa resented beginning in 1988. Perpetrator Scelsa had pledged to “get them big time.” The Institute gained its autonomy in 1994 and Scelsa ran his kingdom with impunity. The diminutive petty tyrant was an autocrat who demanded unquestioning loyalty. And the married Scelsa had a mistress who used to engineer Emelise’s downfall.
Emelise was the artist. She was born in Riva Del Garda, Italy, emigrating to the U.S. at age four. She was an actress, singer, folk dancer, author and theatrical producer and director of historical plays celebrating Italian culture and its contribution to American theater. Her major opus was the 14-volume book series on the Italian-American Immigrant Theatre, 1746-1899. She also wrote books on Little Italy.
With her MA (Hunter) PhD (CUNY) in Theater, she was the Director of the Center for Italian-American Studies at Brooklyn College (part of the CUNY system). Through my involvement in her legal case against Scelsa and CUNY, I learned that she was the creator and producer of the first nationally syndicated cable TV program about Italian-Americans: Italics: the Italian-American Magazine. She also produced documentaries about her heritage. Scelsa’s mistress was the script typist for the Aleandri’s CUNY show. The bullying Emelise experienced revolved around Scelsa stripping her from the TV show, putting the mistress-typist in charge!
However, her CUNY job did not define all that Emelise had become in a remarkable life. She was the Artistic Director of Frizzi & Lazzi The Olde Time Italian-American Music & Theatre Company, a not-for-profit group. She also was an actress who had roles in two Spike Lee films. She did TV commercials.
On Italian-American culture issues, she was the go-to expert for media. She gave walking tours of Little Italy in NYC. She lectured on Italian culture for the New York Council for the Humanities, in the tri-state area, nationally, and in Naples and Genova.
She justifiably won several awards for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Italian-Americans. She was an Elena Cornaro Award Honoree(OSIA), New York State Woman of Distinction, and an Honoree of Leone de San Marco, Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge (OSIA), Italian-American Educators.
It is little wonder that the jealous Scelsa felt threatened by her brilliance and absolute command of the Italian-American culture. I opined in the case brought by Aleandri and Salerno against Scelsa and CUNY:
Aleandri was the more invested of the two in the creative arts and was quite entrepreneurial prior to the Institute’s status as an autonomous research entity under Queen’s College. Scelsa interfered with, stole, or expressly prevented her role in the production of the Italics TV show that she had conceived. She was not given an office phone to conduct business. She had to use a hallway pay telephone on the floor below that afforded no working space for handling the phone duty associated with producing a TV show. She was a very public person as the creative producer and co-host of the show. Scelsa humiliated her in the eyes of guests by forbidding her to personally write thank-you letters. To the unknowing guest (and who could have known about Scelsa’s dominating influence from outside the Institute?), she must have appeared unprofessional. The nefarious manner in which Scelsa replaced Aleandri with the show’s technician (Schempp) and promoted the original script typist (Fosco) to a position higher than Aleandri had to have been degrading. She was then made to train the relatively unqualified staff that Scelsa hired to replace her. Ultimately, the theft of the master tapes for Festa and the copyright infringements compounded the insults.
The lawsuit was filed by both plaintiffs, Salerno and Aleandri, in 2001 [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York – 191 F. Supp. 2d 352 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)]. The two week trial in 2005 ended in a $1.4 million settlement for Emelise and Gloria. Though it never did provide the justice sought or deserved. It was never about the money, and in the end, after paying attorneys, there wasn’t that much.
The bond between the two strong women, Emelise and Gloria, forged during the long internal struggle against Scelsa at CUNY and the nearly as long legal battle was further strengthened after the trial. After a few years, they decided to write the definitive account of what had happened to them. A publisher was found that agreed that the two would produce an unvarnished tale, naming names. However, after they completed the manuscript (not simply a book proposal), the cowardly publisher reneged, not wanting to offend CUNY backers of Scelsa. Again, the pair of advocates had been betrayed. Being lied to was becoming the institutional norm when dealing with straight shooters Salerno and Aleandri.
With CUNY and the publisher in the rear view mirror, the two began the next phases of their lives.
I made it a point to visit with Emelise every time there was a reason to be in New York City. She had moved north to Riverdale, but always drove into the city to graciously take me around. She was as warm and upbeat as ever. Her limitless energy drove her to engage in so many projects, she made this observer dizzy in amazement.
Though our own petty distractions keep us from reaching out to everyone we knew and loved, the infrequent trip to NYC or opportunity to ask Emelise to once again speak on behalf of all bullied targets brought us instantly close again. Despite the demonstrable accomplishments listed above, she was unpretentious. Her humanity leaped across the table from you, enveloping you like a warm blanket on a frigid day. She unabashedly showed her love.
Now we’ve come to learn that another of her battles of which she seldom spoke was her fight against cancer. Bouts of remission kept her going. On January 17, 2016 cancer treatment-related complications took her from us.
A beautiful soul was lost to us all. We were so lucky to have crossed paths, however briefly.
Everyone bullied knows how the absence of any state laws to expressly prohibit bullying and abusive conduct has made it difficult to get justice from their employers. Without a law such as state and federal statutes that make discriminatory misconduct illegal, employers can and do nothing.
Does anyone believe American employers, government or private sector, would voluntarily stumble upon the mistreatment women routinely face in the contemporary workplace and create protections for those employees? Not likely. Only laws get employer attention and compel compliance. That’s why employer policies are in place. In fact, most employers overreact to even a hint of harassment.
Try going to HR to simply clarify your experiences that may or may not be harassment. That’s why you went down to HR to explore what happened to you and what can be done informally. Bam! HR opens a complaint on your behalf, though you greatly fear reprisals. HR is minimizing exposure to legal risks for them without regard to your safety.
Yet, when you claim to be “bullied,” you are not believed or discounted or ignored or made to believe you caused your fate. Why? Bullying is still legal. Bullies can, and do, bully with impunity. And once you make the employer aware, the retaliation, often worse than the original sins, worsens your situation. Your health declines from a host of stress-related complications — cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological changes that affect emotional regulation and memory, and mental health, often ending in trauma.
This is why having a law passed soon is essential for worker safety.
WBI thanks Rhode Island State Senator Frank Ciccone, a lifelong friend of labor, for sponsoring SB 2377 on Feb. 10, 2016. He and the other four co-sponsors deserve our thanks and praise.
SB 2377 also put Rhode Island on the map. It became the 30th state to ever introduce our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill.
Now we pray for a public hearing in the Senate Labor Committee. May the Ocean State be the first to make the bill state law.