October 26th, 2011

The Ventura County (CA) Workplace Bullying Story

The Ventura County Workplace Bullying Story

updated Oct. 27, 2010

Follow the story of a worker-driven push for change of a government workplace culture to drive out bullying. No ending yet. We support the unions whose workers deserve to be free from abusive conduct and retaliation. And we support the County administration that has the opportunity to turn a PR disaster into triumph and do the right thing.


As in all government institutions, bullying occurs. Of this we can be sure. 8,000 employees work for Ventura County, California. Using WBI national statistics, we can safely estimate that 720 employees at any given time are being bullied; an additional 2,080 have been bullied. It’s a mid-size corporation.

January, 2011

A group of employees complained to the County Grand Jury (GJ). In a role much like consultants, the GJ investigated complaints (in one of their roles in that county) about workplace bullying by current and former county workers. The GJ as investigator concluded that bullying is a problem and employees deserve protection from it. An investigation conducted by HR might have concluded differently (as it nearly always does). The GJ reported that HR procedures are not trusted.

May 24, 2011

Ventura CountyThe GJ issues its report confirming the existence of the workplace bullying problem. Read the original Grand Jury report The county HR director, John Nicoll, told the local newspaper “We do not tolerate employees being mistreated because they’ve filed a complaint.” This directly contradicted facts about retaliation and fear of it contained in the GJ report. Read the press coverage of the GJ report and response of County administrators.

May-Sept, 2011

SEIU local 721County employees are represented by several unions. SEIU Local 721 represents the majority of workers, numbering 4,500. The SEIU forms an Anti-Bully Committee. Meetings on the topic draw large crowds and several heart-wrenching stories from workers. The Committee conducts a survey of its members. Nearly 500 members responded. Read the SEIU Local 721 Bullying in the Workplace Report.

Some of the most compelling survey findings were:
60% of respondents have been bullied, compared to the 35% national estimate
– 69% have witnessed bullying
– Over 40% have been yelled at
– Over 40% have been retaliated against

Sept. 27, 2011

Gary Lowery, SEIU

Gary Lowery, SEIU, showing the County's Report Card with all F's

At the Ventura County Supervisors Meeting, SEIU members delivered presentations on the workplace bullying problem to Supervisors and the county executive, Michael Powers. SEIU also provided the Board with their comprehensive survey report. The union made five specific recommendations including the adoption of an Anti-Bullying policy, providing mandatory training for managers and supervisors, and the creation of an independent third party entity to field reports of workplace bullying. Read the union’s account of its presentations. And here’s the Ventura County Star coverage of the Sept. 27 meeting.

Highlights of Union Testimony, 4 min.

Watch the union’s slideshow about testimony day

The full record of Union Testimony on Sept. 27, 2011

The full responses by Supervisors & CEO M. Powers on Sept. 27, 2011


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 at 1:08 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Unions. 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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  1. kachina says:

    I am very impressed with the administration’s public acknowledgement that there is a problem and expressing commitment to addressing the issues identified.

    Policy development and (most importantly) enforcement must lead to improved worker satisfaction with the work environment and demonstrated improvements in key indicators such as turnover, productivity measures, and employee health in order to be considered effective.

    I wish nothing but the best for all of the Ventura County community as their public service providers and supporters (supervisors, managers, and administrators) embark upon the journey together! A successfully implemented anti-bullying initiative benefits everyone.

  2. Easton says:

    Hi, I perceive a problem behind the problem of bullying, the latter of which, I am grateful to see, is being acknowledged and getting plenty of attention. You can’t go to work 9 hours a day to be tortured and killed. And our country loses competitive edge and productive capability, as the problem is so widespread.
    But I have seen only a handful of stories that really gets at what the problem is: it is common in this society to hire supervisors and managers for job skills and knowledge and not for their ability to build teams and lead them. I have never had a job in my life where I had a supervisor with any leadership ability, and if they had training, they were not inspired to make the exceptional effort to apply it until they are good at it. I’m 40 years old; I entered the workforce in Alaska when I was 8 years old (part time, of course). Still waiting and wanting to be led, enthused, and into my work…
    Nowadays, one need only go to the web for leadership study; there are incredibly educational sites among the gimmics, so ask your HR department which ones are serious about self-development.
    The problem is that without leadership ability a supervisor believes his job is to tell you what to do and make you do it, which it is, but it’s not done by way of punishing acts and remarks and subterfuge and anything else that humiliates and disrespects someone, injuring them emotionally and physiologically and undermining esteem and pride in their work role.
    The supervisor is thus isolated and insecure in not being sure how to do his job, and he does the one thing that worsens it: he bullies and creates examples, a sort of rule by fear by proxy.
    That’s my take on it. I’ve been a supervisor three times in my life and I developed my skills in Navy ROTC, where I led a detail well known for self-discipline and commitment out of pride in themselves. But I have not seen another go about the duty of educating oneself in order to excel, to avail himself of new skills to become excellent.
    I wish I had time for research; I’d write an analysis piece for a magazine or something. Someone professional say and do something, please. All workers need encouragement and support at work to be built up; if you supervise, get educated and never put people down.

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