Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’


California lawyers respond to new abusive conduct training law

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Law Takes Aim at Workplace Bullying, Raises Questions

By Laura Hautaia, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Sept. 17, 2014

What counts as bullying in the workplace?

While the concept may be relatively new, managers will have to undergo training on preventing abusive conduct at work once a new law goes into effect in January. The training will come along with other required lessons on preventing sexual harassment and discrimination, but it’s different in one important way: bullying isn’t illegal in California. For now.

Attorneys say AB 2053, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in August, might open the door to making abusive conduct illegal, opening a new category of liability for employers.

“There’s a feeling that there should be a way to prevent that kind of destructive behavior, because it does hurt people when it’s extreme enough, and it causes economic damage,” said Margaret H. Edwards, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson PC who has researched the advent of anti-bullying laws worldwide.

At the moment, the required training might still come into play in a court case if workers sue for harassment or intentional infliction of emotional damage in the workplace, attorneys said.

Whether or not employers provided adequate training on abusive conduct, said Chaya M. Mandelbaum, a partner at Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe who represents workers, “could be a very relevant piece in looking at the culture of the workplace.” Edwards said the new requirement heralds wider recognition of bullying as a problem that can be addressed with laws. Indeed, other states are considering bills that address bullying in schools, and Tennessee passed a law encouraging public employers to create anti-bullying policies.

What’s more, she noted, laws have passed in Canada, the UK and Europe that address bullying in the workplace. “I think part of this is because of work that has been done that comes out of the harassment arena and a desire to try to address destructive behaviors in the workplace that don’t quite fall into the traditional harassment and discrimination categories,” Edwards said.

Some of that work has been done by Gary Namie, a Washington State social psychologist who advocates for anti-bullying legislation. He worked to get a more comprehensive law banning workplace bullying in California in 2003, but the law didn’t pass. Namie said his organization, the Workplace Bullying Institute, talked with California Assemblywoman Lorena Gomez as she authored AB 2053, but that the resulting bill was watered down from what he hopes to see eventually become the law.

“The law is a baby step toward recognizing the impact of workplace bullying defined as abusive conduct,” Namie said. Namie compares abusive conduct at work to domestic abuse. Rather than isolated incidents of cruelty, he said, bullying is a pattern that systematically beats down an employee.

Employment attorneys agreed with this description. “It’s vicious a lot of times,” said Kathryn B. Dickson. What’s more, she said, everyone at the workplace can suffer when bullying takes place. “It has impact on morale and productivity.” But Dickson also noted that while the law defines abusive conduct, naming it in the workplace might still be difficult.” “It gets very mushy around the edges,” she said. However, she compared the task of defining workplace bullying to the questions that surrounded the idea of sexual harassment when it was first litigated in courts. “People said how are we going to say what harassment is? That worked out.”

One test case emerged in 2006, when a judge in London ruled in favor of a former employee of DB Services (UK) Ltd., a UK subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, who said she was systematically bullied at work until she suffered two bouts of Major Depressive Disorder. In a detailed, 46-page decision, High Court Justice Robert M. Owen said the bullying was harassment under the country’s Protection from Harassment Act of 1997, and that the company should have done more to prevent it.

The plaintiff, Helen Green, said coworkers engaged in “petty” bullying conduct and went out of their way to exclude her from conversations, lunches, work-related email chains and more. Green even recounted that one coworker made a raspberry sound every time she took a step while walking across the office. “Many of the incidents that she describes would amount to no more than minor slights,” Owen wrote. “But it is their cumulative effect that has to be considered.” What’s more, the company was privy to information about Green’s mental health history and could have known she would be vulnerable to such bullying, he ruled.

Such situations aren’t uncommon in American workplaces, plaintiffs’ attorneys said. Mandelbaum said many people call seeking legal representation, only to learn what they experience at the hands of a coworker or supervisor is not illegal. What’s more, often it’s bullying that motivates someone to sue for sexual harassment or discrimination in the first place, he said. “It’s that kind of conduct that underlies their feelings and their motivation to go through what they need to go through to enforce their rights legally.” Mandelbaum said.

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Workplace Bullying Laws | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



Research: Explaining peer condemnation of targets of workplace bullying

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

WBI review of an academic research study:

Diekmann, K.A., Walker, S.D.S., Galinsky, A.D., & Tenbrunsel, A.E. (2012) Double victimization in the workplace: Why observers condemn passive victims of sexual harassment. Organization Science, 2012, 1-15.

A well practiced tendency of observers of workplace harassment, coworkers of the targeted person, is to declare that they themselves would have taken more action to stop the harassment than the victim did.

The researchers in this study call this prediction “forecasting,” and people claim they would do more than they actually do. They have an optimism bias, especially with respect to moral or socially desirable conduct. No one wants to admit they would not do “the right thing” when opportunities present themselves. And there is an equal underestimation of how likely they would be to yield to social pressure and self-interest.

A common consequence of such observer hubris is the subsequent condemnation of victims for failing to have acted — to resist, to confront, to report, to reverse the harassment. Of course, as WBI research shows, confrontation fails to stop the negative conduct and leads to retaliation of the victim which exacerbates the suffering.

Staying passive is the preferred choice of both sexual harassment victims and bullied targets. From their perspective, it is safer than alternatives. However, observers may interpret passivity as weakness. Thus, harassment victims are harmed twice over.

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



Main St: This Workplace Offense is More Common than Sexual Harassment

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

By Susan Kreimer, Main Street, August 7, 2013

Bullies exert control in schools, playgrounds, cyber space—and in the workplace, too. But adults typically don’t expect as much empathy as kids do. Many suffer in silence.

“Ideally, coworkers should intervene,” says Gary Namie, who co-founded the Workplace Bullying Institute with his wife, Ruth, in Bellingham, Wash. in 1997. “However, research shows that this happens in less than 1% of incidents.” Compounding a bullied worker’s misery, “employers seem reluctant to act.”

Bullying on the job occurs four times more often than sexual harassment or racial discrimination, according to the institute, which is leading a national campaign to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in all 50 states.

(more…)

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Posted in Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI in the News | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



Lustful dentist fires “irresistibly attractive” worker, OK by Iowa Supreme Court

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

In January, we detailed the case of Melissa Nelson, a long-time worker in the dental office of James Knight, DDS. After Knight turned 50, Nelson said he became lewd. Knight’s wife and pastor told him to fire Nelson because of the temptation her attractiveness caused for Knight. He followed the advice.

Nelson sued, not for sexual harassment, but for gender discrimination. The dentist was supported by the courts, both trial and appeals, by granting summary judgement in his favor. They threw the case out. In the July 12, 2013 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, they made it clear that since sexual favoritism need not be based on illegal forms of discrimination, neither should unfavorability (page 8 in the Court’s decision). The Supreme Court affirmed the prior appeals court decision. Knight was allowed to legally terminate her on the basis of her beauty as he perceived it!

Read our prior coverage of this case.

Read the July 12 Iowa Supreme Court decision.

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Rulings by Courts | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Iowa dentist lusted for assistant, fired her, state appeals court backs him

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Don’t ever lose your ability to be shocked by injustice. That’s what employers want us to do. Here’s a shocking tale.

Melissa Nelson, a 32-year old mother and happily married wife, was a dental assistant for 10 years for a Fort Dodge, Iowa dentist named James Knight. Knight had been her family dentist. A Nelson acquaintance worked in his office. She felt close to his wife and family, too. Knight is older than Nelson. It was an amicable midwest workplace for years.

Nelson said that Knight became lewd when he turned 50. He found her “irresistibly attractive.” He sleazily commented that if she (Nelson) saw his pants “bulging,” she would know her clothing was too revealing and he objected that he was able to tell during work hours that she had breasts. Remember, this was an educated health professional! Knight learned cell phone texting and began sexting to Nelson, asking how often she had orgasms. Nelson never encouraged or invited Knight’s advances. Knight told his pastor and wife that he had “feelings and emotions” for Nelson. Both told him to fire Nelson, the woman Knight considered his best-ever assistant. The wobbly Knight made termination a religious affair. He invited another pastor from his church to attend the Jan. 4, 2010 meeting with Nelson where they ambushed and fired her.

(more…)

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Rulings by Courts, Workplace Bullying Laws | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



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