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Nexus of Workers' Rights, Research & Social Policies



May 17th, 2017

Sac Bee: State Worker’s Bosses Ignored His Allergies. Now He’s $3 Million Richer

State Worker’s Bosses Ignored His Allergies. Now He’s $3 Million Richer

By Adam Ashton, Sacramento Bee, May 17, 2017

A Caltrans employee in Nevada County who claimed his supervisors harassed him by ignoring his documented allergies to perfume and certain cleaning products will receive a $3 million payout from a lawsuit he filed against the state.

A Nevada County jury sided with John Barrie in a one-month trial that ended last week, upholding his claims that he experienced retaliation, that his employer failed to accommodate his disability and that he was subjected to a hostile work environment. He continues to work for Caltrans in a position that allows him to work from home.
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Posted in Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, Rulings by Courts | 1 Comment



May 8th, 2017

Thanks to the bully at work, targets have pre-existing conditions

Writing this from the hospital bedside of Dr. Ruth whose bullying case launched the U.S. Workplace Bullying movement. It’s tough enough to recover from complicated surgery late in life. To also have to consider how to pay the outrageous expenses is unthinkable. [If you believe people should not receive care if they cannot afford it, stop reading the rest of this article. You won’t understand or care.]

Without Medicare, Ruth would be dead. Simple as that. It is the U.S. Government honoring its promise to relieve older Americans of the astronomical financial burden of healthcare. It is not Medicare’s fault costs are high. Medicare adds only a 3% overhead for administrative costs compared to the 30-40% overhead added by for-profit insurance companies.

Medicare contracts directly with providers through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now headed by Tom Price, a Trump appointee. No third-party insurance company interference occurs. Medicare was conceived by the Kennedy administration and realized by Johnson after the JFK assassination. Its original goal was to provide universal health coverage for all Americans. But politicians whittled it down to helping older Americans as part of the haggling process. For the disabled and poor, regardless of age, they crafted Medicaid. The authors of the original law intended the limited protections to be revisited and expanded.

Remember, in all other industrialized nations, citizens enjoy national health insurance similar to Medicare and Medicaid but extended to everyone cradle to grave. In some countries, private insurance can supplement the government plans. The U.S. is aberrant, the lone stubborn holdout unable to elect legislators who think it part of their job to provide government services for their taxpaying constituents. Only in the U.S. can a family lose their home and go bankrupt for their inability to pay medical expenses (accounting for the highest proportion of all bankruptcies).

Rather than expand the limits of government-provided health insurance to all citizens (a Medicare-for-all universal health plan or a single-payer (gov’t) plan), the next attempt to revise insurance was the Affordable Care Act (dubbed Obamacare). Critics tried to call it a government plan. In fact, it was written almost entirely by an insurance industry lobbyist, Liz Fowler, working with then-Sen. Max Baucus. Private insurers retained their power. The government, however, did mandate that insurers could not refuse coverage based on pre-existing conditions, had to maintain coverage for children up to age 26, and had to offer a host of basic services (e.g., maternity care).

About half of private health insurance is contracted through employers for employees. Over the years, employees’ share of costs have risen. Then with Obamacare, millions of previously uninsured or uninsurable (those with pre-existing conditions) individuals were able to afford insurance with the help of subsidies paid by the federal government to states. For instance, a $1,300 monthly premium could be reduced to $400 with a $900 subsidy based on the person’s income. The funds for that subsidy came from a 3.8% tax applied to the lesser of either your net investment income (rentals, capital gains, stock dividends) or the amount by which the modified adjusted gross income exceeds a threshold amount ($200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for married couples). Additionally, those exceeding the threshold limits also paid more in Medicare payroll tax (2.35% vs. 1.45%). It was a deliberate redistribution of income from the very rich to the poor and lower middle class. The program was debated publicly for 17 months. No Republicans voted for it. Obamacare reflected American values that Republicans did not share.

Finally, Republicans in the House of Representatives were able to offer and pass out of the House their alternative to the ACA/Obamacare — the American Health Care Act.

The AHCA is a cruel and sadistic proposed law. First, it eliminates the 3.8% tax on the wealthy and ends the payroll tax supplement in 2023. It increases the size of tax-deductible Health Savings Accounts that only the rich can afford. Thus, it reverses the income redistribution of Obamacare. By cutting $800 billion in Medicaid funding, the AHCA gives the wealthy over $600 billion in tax cuts. Who pays for those gifts to the wealthiest among us? The poor, disabled and the aged. Quite a statement about our values.

The AHCA puts Americans in harm’s way (again) by giving states the right to allow health insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Look at this list:

AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, ADD, addiction, Alzheimer’s/dementia, anemia, aneurysm, angioplasty, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, atrial fibrillation, autism, bariatric surgery, basal cell carcinoma, bipolar disorder, blood clot, breast cancer, bulimia, bypass surgery, celiac disease, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral embolism, cerebral palsy, cerebral thrombosis, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colon polyps, congestive heart failure, COPD, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, DMD, depression, diabetes, disabilities, Down syndrome, eating disorder, enlarged prostate, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart disease, heart murmur, heartburn, hemophilia, hepatitis C, herpes, high cholesterol, hypertension, hysterectomy, kidney disease, kidney stones, kidney transplant, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, lymphoma, mental health issues, migraines, MS, muscular dystrophy, narcolepsy, nasal polyps, obesity, OCD, organ transplant, osteoporosis, pacemaker, panic disorder, paralysis, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sickle cell disease, skin cancer, sleep apnea, sleep disorders, stent, stroke, thyroid issues, tooth disease, tuberculosis, ulcers

Really? Denial for acne? For kidney stones? For seasonal affective disorder? For blood clot?

What a heartless cynical political ploy which, if it ever becomes law, would deprive millions (24 million was the estimate of affected by the CBO) of health insurance. Without access to treatment and medications, people will die. They will die unnecessarily

Where’s our oft-cited American morality as a model for the world? Is it now, or has it always been, only a myth? How can we turn our backs on our needy.

Politicians show greater allegiance to capitalist principles. Because health care is now dominated by the for-profit corporate model, people don’t matter. Principles of equality are cast aside. Is needed treatment for diseases an American right or available only for those who can afford the market price?

The AHCA and Workplace Bullying

Targets of bullying endure a range of stress-related health complications. At the very least, they suffer anxiety from the surprising psychological assault that contradicts the targets’ perceptions of themselves, their core identities. When the frequency of incidents increase and the exposure period is prolonged, greater harm results.

Effects on targets include clinical depression, trauma-like symptoms (thought intrusions, avoidance behaviors, negative affect, arousal and hypervigilance) and an increased risk of suicidal ideation. In addition, there is adverse impact on gastrointestinal, immunological and musculoskelatal systems. In other words, diagnosable physiological diseases. Look again at the above list of conditions that would allow insurers to preclude coverage.

The sad reality is that once bullied, individuals are a walking cluster of pre-existing conditions.

Furthermore, with the reduced (or lost) income following bullying, it is likely targets would be eligible for Medicaid assistance. Under the AHCA, there will be less access to Medicaid itself or the program benefits will be so inadequate that treatment for the effects of bullying will be nonexistent.

Call your U.S. Senators and Member of Congress to tell them to not support the AHCA for your sake!

And remember who did this to you …

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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie, The New America | Post Comment



April 11th, 2017

HR put in its place – the “KGB”

We recently received the following note here at WBI. Writer’s words are in bold.

I feel like your website is extremely one sided. I came to it because an HR colleague referred me to it however she warned me the site was negative, anti-HR and anti-employer and she is correct.

We are not anti-employer. We are anti-abuse. When an employer abuses as general operating procedures or treats the rare complaint about abuse with indifference, then we oppose that particular employer. We have consulted and helped organizations since 1985, long before our 20 years in workplace bullying began. And we continue helping employers who give a damn about their employees. See here how we help. In court, I even help defend employers who wisely terminated abusers. We like good employers. Hate bad ones, don’t you?

Why did you come to visit us in the first place?

You pretty much tell the person they are being abused and the company will fire you.

We describe the predictable pattern that bullying follows. The sad experience mirrors what battered spouses go through. Do we make targets out of site visitors? No, 97% of site visitors come to us self-diagnosed as victims of workplace bullying. We simply report what over 12,000 targets have told us to bolster the mental health of visitors and inquiring family members. Admittedly, we have heard descriptions of two (2) heroic HR folks from all of those anecdotal tales. You are correct, HR is not all bad. In fact, several progressive, compassionate and thoughtful HR practitioners have attended the WBI Workplace Bullying University training for professionals and left with an in-depth knowledge of the phenomenon.

However, WBI research, based on polling individuals who suffer the mistreatment and not your guess about what outcomes are, shows that once targeted bullied workers face a 77% chance of losing their jobs. Read the study results here. And there is international research showing that bullies do not lose their jobs (Glambek, M., Skogstad, M.A., & Einarsen, S. (2016) Do the bullies survive? A five-year, three-wave prospective study of indicators of expulsion in working life among perpetrators of workplace bullying. Industrial Health, 54, 68-73.) Targets do lose their jobs (Glambek, M., Skogstad, M.A., & Einarsen, S. (2015) Take it or leave: A five-year, three-wave prospective study of workplace bullying and indicators of expulsion in working life. Industrial Health, 53, 160-170.).

In another study, we specifically asked what happened to people after they reported the bullying incidents to HR. Doing so proves to be a mistake. It seems, according to the one group who would know how and if HR helped them — individuals targeted for bullying — they were either retaliated against, lost their job, or ignored. On the plus side, nearly 2% of respondents said HR did help. Read the study results here.

This has not been my experience in the business world, nor many of our colleagues.

Those of us in the trenches in the war against workplace abusive conduct tend to share a common wisdom about HR. Colleague and friend Law Professor David Yamada (who is much more diplomatic than I, being careful to never offend unlike me) wrote recently in his blog, Minding the Workplace, that he hears reports such as “HR was useless,” “HR threw me under the bus,” and “HR protected the bullies.” He added, “in the worst instances, HR has actively furthered, supported, and enabled the abuse.”

And dear HR professional, in case you think it is only WBI-affiliated persons who hold such negative perceptions of HR, read on.

From the headlines, you may have heard about the costly corporate liability faced by Fox News for sustaining Bill O’Reilly’s employment. Fox or O’Reilly has paid $13 million in settlements to five of his accusers. One accuser of Roger Ailes won a $20 million settlement.

A central tenet in the Fox defense is that accusers of Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes never filed complaints with Fox Human Resources or called the company hotline.

Here comes attorney Nancy Erika Smith who represented Gretchen Carlson in her harassment lawsuit and now represents Julie Roginsky against Fox and Roger Ailes.

Smith was asked on CNN about the Fox defense. Some women at Fox News have said they are afraid the line is being monitored. Smith said calling the hotline is a good idea “only if you think it would be good to call the KGB to complain about Putin.” “HR is not your friend. HR will not help you,” Smith said.

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Posted in Advice for Employers | 3 Comments



April 10th, 2017

Next online poll: how much does discrimination overlap with workplace bullying?

Was the perpetrator’s abusive conduct apparently motivated by the target’s protected class (race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability or age)?

View Results

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Posted in WBI Surveys & Studies | Post Comment



April 10th, 2017

Appellate Court adds sexual orientation to federal law

American Federal Civil Rights Title VII law does not yet include protections (actually the right to seek legal redress in courts) for discrimination because of sexual orientation. That means sexual orientation is not one of the protected classes upon which claims of illegal discrimination by employers are based. A recent appellate court decision expands federal legal protections.

The current eight protected classes are: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information and age. However, several states have added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination statutes. Employers, of course, may voluntarily add any protections to the lean list of federal and state protections to their internal policies and procedures. But American employers have little appetite for expanding employee protections.

Congress could expand federal law if it wished. Fat chance though. The heartless authors of the The American Health Care Act and the party that installed Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General (who is “reviewing” prior Department of Justice initiatives — consent decrees and reform plans — to reduce police violence) are not likely to EXPAND the number of ways people can claim discrimination. The regulation-killers are actually against protections-for-the-people.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) also provided context with its 2015 decision in the Obergell case to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry. The court changed law faster than was possible by Congress, a legislative body paralyzed by homophobic ideological leaders. Society and the then-SCOTUS were more progressive than lawmakers. When courts provide legal precedent for subsequent cases, they are making case law. It is the alternative to waiting for legislatures to act. In other words, the new interpretations of existing written laws can expand or contract them.

In this context of proactive court and sluggish legislatures, the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of Kimberly Hively (No. 15-1720) on April 4. Kimberly Hively began part-time teaching at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana in 2000. She applied for full-time teaching positions as they arose between 2009 and 2014. She never was hired. Hively is a lesbian; the college knew it. She believed the application rejections were based on her sexual orientation. She filed an EEOC complaint in 2013. The EEOC gave her permission to sue in court. Judge Rudy Lozano dismissed her case in district federal court.

The 7th Circuit majority of 11 judges, with three judges dissenting, expanded Title VII protections to include sexual orientation protection against discrimination. The majority agreed with plaintiff Hively. This is a landmark case. The defendant community college may take the case to SCOTUS. The current 11th Circuit has rejected a similar case asking for sexual orientation protection. Legal experts predict that it will be heard by SCOTUS.

Chief Judge Diane Wood, for the majority, wrote:

Ivy Tech refused to promote Professor Hively because she is homosexual. Professor Hively argues that, in doing so, the College relied on her sex, because, but for her sex, she would not have been denied a promotion (i.e., she would not have been denied a promotion if she were a man who was sexually attracted to women). She also argues that Ivy Tech’s actions constituted associational discrimination: The College took issue with Professor Hively’s intimate association with women and refused to promote her. There is no allegation, however, that the College refused to promote women; nor is there an allegation that it refused to promote those who associate with women. Rather, Ivy Tech’s alleged animus was against Professor Hively’s sexual orientation—a combination of these two factors (p. 36)

Here, the majority considers sexual orientation an extension of “sex” which is addressed by Title VII law:

One cannot consider a person’s homosexuality without also accounting for their sex: doing so would render “same” and “own” meaningless. As such, discriminating against that employee because they are homosexual constitutes discriminating against an employee because of (A) the employee’s sex, and (B) their sexual attraction to individuals of the same sex. And “sex,” under Title VII, is an enumerated trait (p.37) … Thus, the College allegedly discriminated against Professor Hively, at least in part, because of her sex (p. 40)

So, we wait to see how successfully this extension of protections holds up in future court cases. For now, there is a new law in the land!

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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Related bills/laws, Workplace Bullying Laws | Post Comment



April 5th, 2017

In these distressing times, a welcome affirmation from the LGBTQ community

Last night we attended a San Francisco Symphony concert. It wasn’t an ordinary event. It was called Symphony Pride a fundraiser for five LGBTQ organizations.

The advertising described the special concert as “celebrating the Bay Area’s spirit of inclusion and diversity with a focus on the voices of the LGBTQ community … festive occasion … featuring six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald who narrates Aaron Copland’s iconic Lincoln Portrait … reaffirming San Francisco’s commitment to equality for all.”

It was an emotional evening. The audience roared with appreciative applause like no other symphony audience. They obviously adore the maestro Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT to everyone in SF), the symphony’s conductor since 1995. MTT brought on stage his partner of 38 years who he was able to marry just two years ago. There were short videos of gay musicians from the orchestra who spoke of the welcoming workplace culture, an inclusive safe climate, at the symphony.

The mayor of the city spoke about resisting the Trump administration and its shameful reversals on human rights as a model for the rest of America. Again roaring applause. I’ve seen MTT conduct before. Never saw him jump so high. So animated. A virtual love affair with the audience. The passion of the artists was inspiring.

The talented, new mom Audra McDonald sang some lovely songs. Then, she went rogue with the 1968 Laura Nyro song Save the Country, at MTT’s admitted encouragement (who could have predicted he is a fan of protest anthems?). With but one short rehearsal prior to the concert, she belted out the call for us all to “I’ve got fury in my soul … save the people …. save the children … lay the devil down … we can build a dream with love … save the country!” Pure rapture.

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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie | Post Comment



April 4th, 2017

Mean anti-employee federal legislation

A report from the Economic Policy Institute sheds light on a new piece of Republican legislation sure to pass the R-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is H.R. 1180, sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL).

It is titled the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017.

Ross Eisenbrey and Celine McNicholas, authors of the EPI report, describe the bill as a false choice (the ostensible flexibility for workers) between getting paid overtime or working extra hours in exchange for comp time to be taken in the future. On the surface, it appears the choice belongs to the worker. Through Republican eyes, that is “freedom” for the lowly worker.

When we consider the source of the bill, and read the text, the only flexibility is given to employers. If the bill becomes law, it will work as follows. The employer wants extra hours on a given day from the worker. She or he is asked if future comp time is desired in exchange for the extra labor now. Employee wants the comp time (paid at the regular salary, not overtime rate) in a month to spend more of the kids’ school break week with family. See how nicely the title of the bill fits?

But this is not paradise, nor how it will go down. When the employee requests the earned comp time for a very important personal reason, the employer can easily deny the request. The bill’s provision allowing this is wide and ripe for exploitation by abusive or controlling bosses. All the employer’s representative need claim is that granting comp time when the employee wants it “unduly disrupts the operations of the employer.”

That will more likely be the reality.

This proposal is another stab in the back for American workers by the Republicans who shamelessly promote and pass legislation to coddle employers as if it is they who have their freedom restricted by onerous laws and regulations.

There is current federal law protecting the right to overtime pay, especially for hourly workers. However, salaried workers who earn $455 per week or more may be exempt from guaranteed overtime if their job duties fall into one of three categories: professional, administrative, or executive. That threshold is incredibly low. It was originally set in the 1970’s. The threshold was raised by the Obama Department of Labor to $913 per week, but denied implementation by the courts.

Don’t fall for the “flexibility” and “freedom” sloganeering in such bills. HR 1180 will trap workers into accepting less money for their extra time given to employers. Oppose this bill. Tell your Congressional Representative.

Read the EPI Report here.

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Posted in Related bills/laws, Workplace Bullying Laws | Post Comment



April 4th, 2017

WBI offers webinar for legal professionals through Clear Law Institute

WEBINAR for employers and legal professionals.

Eradicating Workplace Bullying
by Gary Namie, WBI Director
April 19th, 2017 1:00 PM to 2:15 PM ET
Hosted by the Clear Law Institute
Register online

This program has been approved for 1.25 (General) recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

Clear Law Institute is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1.25 PDCs.

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Posted in Advice for Employers, WBI Education, Webinars | Post Comment



April 3rd, 2017

Mass. S 1013 Healthy Workplace Bill committee hearing Tuesday

ALERT: The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development meets Hearing Room A2 at the State Capitol on Tuesday April 4 at 1 pm. Public hearing for S 1013.

Massachusetts has been one of the more active states in recent years with the re-introduction of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. The volunteer citizen lobbying group, Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates, in concert with the public employees union, NAGE, have been the drivers of the years-long campaign.

The title of bill S 1013 is “An Act addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, without regard to protected class status.” It makes abusive conduct legally actionable. Employers are vicariously liable if they fail to prevent or correct it.

The immediate goal after a bill is introduced is to have the committee chairs agree to schedule a public hearing in the committee to which the bill was referred. Now, early in the legislative session, the hearing for S 1013 is set. With a positive vote from the committee, advocates can work with the bill sponsors to get the senior leaders in each chamber to call for a floor vote for the bill. This has been the snag in years past.

WBI will call on its supporters to help compel key Mass politicians to agree to that floor vote.

For now, we want everyone to thank the prime sponsor, Sen. Jennifer L. Flanagan
Her email: Jennifer.Flanagan@masenate.gov
Her office phone: 617-722-1230

Here is the list of all sponsors:

Diana DiZoglio, Frank I. Smizik, John W. Scibak, Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr., RoseLee Vincent, Thomas M. McGee, Louis L. Kafka, Barbara A. L’Italien, Lori A. Ehrlich, Daniel M. Donahue, Michael D. Brady, James J. O’Day, Aaron Vega, Kenneth J. Donnelly, Denise Provost, Jonathan Hecht, Bruce J. Ayers, Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Brian M. Ashe, Chris Walsh, Ruth B. Balser, Danielle W. Gregoire, Steven Ultrino, Tackey Chan, Donald F. Humason, Jr., Brendan P. Crighton, John J. Mahoney, Dylan Fernandes, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, William N. Brownsberger, Russell E. Holmes, Jonathan D. Zlotnik, Kevin G. Honan, Joan B. Lovely, James B. Eldridge, Claire D. Cronin, David T. Vieira, Michael O. Moore, John C. Velis, Kevin J. Kuros, Alice Hanlon Peisch, James Arciero, Byron Rushing, Paul McMurtry, Paul Brodeur, Sal N. DiDomenico, Christine P. Barber

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Workplace Bullying Laws | Post Comment



April 1st, 2017

Bullies are too expensive to keep

We at WBI have labored to convince employers that if they view bullying through their “loss prevention” perspective, the only rational action is to purge the one or two destructive individuals who have tormented many more others over the years. It is the rational choice because it stops the losses and prevents future ones.

Still, American employers who face no legal workplace bullying standard are safe to ignore it, when and if they wish. Ignoring and treating it with indifference or flat-out denial that bullying happens on their watch are the typical responses. They do so out of loyalty to the abuser. Simultaneously this sends the message that everyone else is expendable, dispensable and worthless.

We list the following tangible bully-related costs: undesirable turnover, absenteeism, increased utilization of healthcare-workers comp-diability insurance, and litigation-related expenses. This is not simply theoretical.

The New York Times reports that Fox News has paid out over $13 million in case settlements to five women who claimed that network host Bill O’Reilly sexually harassed them. Some of the women worked for him; others were guests on his show.

Continue reading this article… »

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, Tutorials About Bullying | Post Comment



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