The New York Healthy Workplace Advocates, the Healthy Workplace Campaign-affiliated citizen lobbying group behind the NY State companion bills – S4289 and A4258 – coordinated an April 30 press conference with Sen. Savino and Assemblyman Englebright, the prime bill sponsors. Bullied targets also spoke. Visit the NY State Page to see details of the legislation and its long history there and to view the entire press conference. Here is the press coverage and the video from WNYT-TV.
Savino, Englebright Push Bill to fight Workplace Bullying
by Rebecca Melnitsky, Capitol Confidential, April 30, 2012
With the support of many unions and workers advocacy groups, Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Steve Englebright urged the legislature to pass the Healthy Workplace Bill.
“Workplace bullying is repeated and repeated verbal abuse and psychological abuse in the workplace,” said Tom Witt of the state Healthy Workplace Advocates, an organization dedicated to the passage of legislation that addresses and educates employers about workplace bullying.
Witt noted that workplace bullying can be the cause of mental illness and violence.
“We clearly know what harassment means from the perspective of sexual harassment,” Savino said. “What this bill does is that it takes out the word ‘sexual harassment’ and leaves in the activity. So, if I had power over you, and if I create a hostile work environment, that’s already against the law if it applies to sexual harassment. Take the word ‘sexual’ out. It’s the same kind of behavior.”
Savino added that victims of workplace bullying feel threatened by a loss of employment if they don’t comply with a supervisor’s unreasonable demands. “When you’re being harassed, you know it,” Savino said.
Englebright said he had recently spoken to Assembly Labor Committee chairman Keith Wright. “He indicated that he wanted to move this bill, and would do so. So part of what we’re announcing this morning is that this is a priority for this session.”
Englebright said the bill has 82 sponsors in the Assembly.
Victims of workplace bullying shared their personal stories.
Diana Whitwaker, a former nurse, said that some of her colleagues in VA hospitals committed suicide. Heidi Ellerton DiTonno said that workplace bullying made her develop anorexia. Neal Dias cried when he recalled the toll that taking Verizon management to court for bullying has taken on his family.
“As a Vietnam-era veteran, there are certain invisible wounds that were suppressed and very under control for 42 years,” Colleen O’Connor said. “Six months at the VA destroyed any kind of semblance that I may have had in my life. Via the bullying, sabotage, threats from staff and management, my local VA triggered my wounds and destroyed my wellness that I had prior to working there.”