ABA: Understanding the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

August 20th, 2014

Understanding Workplace-Bullying Legislation
By Randi Melnick
American Bar Association, August 13, 2014

Labor-and-employment attorneys hear countless tales of abuse suffered by employees in the workplace. Employees subjected to mean-spirited or degrading treatment can often feel helpless, or even if they are proactive and make a complaint to human resources, they may simply be told to toughen up, or find a new job. With the realities of today’s increasingly stressful and competitive workplace, it is worth a moment of reflection to consider what level of civility should be expected in the workplace, and what the consequences should be, if any, for those who break such codes of conduct.

Workplaces can have tricky cultural norms, and some people will be more skilled than others at communicating. However, there is a difference between a manager or coworker who lacks tact and one who goes out of his or her way to purposefully target an individual. When one is verbally abused or intimidated, when work is sabotaged, or when humiliation is used as a tactic, that is bullying. And it is not always illegal in the United States.

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WBI Podcast: Destructive pragmatic politicians

August 13th, 2014

WBI Podcast 41

Pragmatic politics used to be considered a virtue, but it really means sacrificing the principles of representing the people to support corporations. With respect to the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, compromises have gutted the bill, extending the rights of employers instead of employees. This brand of pragmatism is destructive.

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MA session ends without passing the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

August 6th, 2014

Another legislative session ended on July 31 in Massachusetts. The Speaker of the House did not allow a vote on the popular Healthy Workplace Bill. The bill, HB 1766, had cleared the relevant joint committee and was slated for a vote (third reading). The very active Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates in conjunction with MA unions, especially SEIU/NAGE, had pushed hard. See bill-related details and its legislative history are found at the MA State page at this website.

The next session begins in January 2015 and the fight continues with a great deal of momentum, thanks to a Boston Globe article late in the session. Advocates are confident that the bill will get to a floor vote in the future and on to the Governor’s desk.



NH workplace bullying bill vetoed by governor

July 29th, 2014

Gov. Hassan Vetoes Workplace Bullying Bill
By Holly Ramer, Associated Press, July 28, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a bill Monday aimed at protecting New Hampshire state employees from abusive work environments, saying it was well-intentioned but unworkable.

Lawmakers passed the measure after hearing from current and former state workers who said they experienced workplace bullying. It would have required state departments and agencies to develop policies to address harassment.

But Hassan said the legislation’s definition of “abusive conduct” was overly broad and would have made the most routine interactions potential causes of action. For example, workers could claim abuse if they believed they had “unreasonable” workloads, felt co-workers weren’t answering emails in a timely manner or had received constructive criticism from supervisors or peers, she said.

“The bill also attempts to legislate politeness, manners and the interpersonal relationships of co-workers,” Hassan said.

The governor said state employees deserve respect and the opportunity to work in respectful environments, but she argued the legislation would lead to a dramatic increase in lawsuits, which would in turn hinder productivity.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Diane Schuett, said she hopes lawmakers will override the veto.

“We all know there’s bullying in school, and just because someone graduates from school, doesn’t mean they stop doing it, and it carries over into the workplace,” she said. “It undermines the efficiency within state government if you end up with one or two employees being harassed on the job, either by another employee or a supervisor, and you end up with the entire agency being aware of it and feeling like they have to pick sides.”

Schuett, D-Pembroke, and other supporters said the state has no written policy against abuse in the workplace nor any office procedure to follow to address such issues. But Hassan said existing state rules give employees an avenue for making complaints.

Diana Lacey, president of the State Employees’ Association, disagreed. She said in the two years since the bill was first introduced, the governor has done little more than have the state personnel division develop an online “Respect in the Workplace” training presentation.

“It just feels like more stalling,” she said. “The governor has the power to issue an executive order to take this more seriously … If the governor wasn’t going to support the legislation, the governor’s office should’ve pitched an executive order and has not done so. So we’re very upset.”

As for the concern about litigation, Lacey said state employees already have been using the courts to seek relief.

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The WBI response to the veto.

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NY State Senator candidate Everly Brown to walk against workplace bullying, for the HWB

July 28th, 2014

A candidate for NY State Senate District 10, Everly Brown, is a man committed to ending Workplace Bullying. This is a national first. Brown, a Rosedale Queens resident, is gathering signatures to demand that current State Senate leaders to pass the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (S3863/A4965) NOW !!! Brown will hand deliver the petitions by walking from Sen. Skelos’ (Republican Senate leader) office on Long Island to Sen. Klein’s (Democratic Senate leader) office in the Bronx — 40 miles on August 11.

Visit his website to support Everly Brown’s campaign.

Here is the New York Times ad run by Everly Brown on July 28, 2014.



Stupid state lawmakers deliberately distort science

July 22nd, 2014

“Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress.
But I repeat myself.”
Mark Twain

I’m starting to sound like my father and can’t believe I question nearly every day “what is this world coming to?” Near the top of my “it’s all going to hell” list is America’s turning its back on science — unabashedly, proudly, defiantly — through legislation.

In the UK, the BBC has banned from their airwaves crackpot guests preaching that climate change is not real. The change is to bolster scientific integrity. Staff will receive training in science and scientific conferences will be attended by staff to stay abreast of developments.

Deniers get equivalence here in the US. One denier with one believer (proxy by Bill Nye, the “Science Guy”). Viewers ignorant of the facts could conclude that climate change is not really something to be concerned about. The fallacy of this false equivalence was never more clear than this demonstration by comedian John Oliver on his HBO show This Week Tonight.

And recently the British government extended its public school ban on teaching pseudoscience, creationism, to cover “academies” and “free schools,” the equivalent of charter schools in the States. The government recognizes the religious bases of the founders of such schools. Thus creationism promotes religion and has no business in the teaching of science.

America is headed in the other direction, driving headfirst into ignorance. Creationists and advocates for “intelligent design” in the US seem to be gaining clout. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) 2014 legislative scorecard identified states that are attempting to make their children science illiterates.

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Healthy Workplace Bill legislation: A 2014 perspective on distorted amendments

July 14th, 2014

The Healthy Workplace Campaign is WBI’s effort to enact anti-bullying legislation for the American workplace state by state. The model bill is called the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB).

Features of the HWB

• Suffolk University Law Professor David C. Yamada, text author, used federal Title VII Civil Rights laws as basis

• Defines severe abusive conduct — does not use term workplace bullying

• Provides legal redress for anyone subjected to abusive conduct, whether or not the person is a member of a protected status group

• Requires that abusive conduct result in either demonstrable health or economic harm to plaintiff

• Plaintiffs who file lawsuits make public formerly hidden, confidential employer processes that hide and deny bullying

• Prohibits retaliation against any participant in procedures involved in dealing with the abusive conduct complaint

• Requires plaintiffs to hire private attorneys, no fiscal impact on state government

• Provides incentives (affirmative defenses) for employers who implement genuine corrective procedures

• Preserves managerial prerogative to discipline and terminate employees

• Does not interfere with state workers’ compensation laws or union CBAs

We named the HWB in 2002. All other uses of the name HWB are unauthorized by us. California first introduced the HWB in 2003. It has been carried in over half of states and two territories since. The Workplace Bullying Institute trains and provides support to a national network of volunteer Sate Coordinators who lobby their respective state legislators to sponsor the HWB. You can track its status at the HWB website.

Botched Amendments & Unanticipated Consequences

As authors of the HWB, we naturally want the full and original version of the bill enacted into law. And we realize compromises will be made during the process. It is “sausage making,” after all. We just wish all bill sponsors would refuse to allow major revisions that change the spirit of the bill from protecting abused workers to something else. Since the HWB was first introduced, different amendments have been proposed or made.
Often the well-intended sponsor, a pro-worker advocate, agrees to compromise adopting the belief that the law can be built in steps. Let’s get this version passed now and it will be revisited in the coming years and supplemented with the other desired provisions.

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Workplace Bullying: Support for U.S. Laws

July 14th, 2014


SUPPORT FOR A LAW in 2014

Question: Do you support or oppose enactment of a new law that would protect all workers from repeated abusive mistreatment in addition to protections against illegal discrimination and harassment?

The respondents who answered this question were individuals who were directly bullied, those who had witnessed it, the few who were perpetrators, and those with no personal experience but who believed it happened and those who believed it was exaggerated. Those groups taken together constituted the American public who were “aware” of abusive conduct at work, the 72% (See National Prevalence).

It is clear that those respondents, the American public aware of abusive conduct, want to see worker protections extended beyond the anti-discrimination statutes – 93% support specific anti-bullying legislation.

Furthermore, 50% of Survey respondents self-defined as Conservatives strongly support the Healthy Workplace Bill. With such little opposition from
those expected to oppose the bill, it is a certain conclusion that now is the time for passage of this new law.


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HR Exec: Taking Aim at Workplace Bullies

July 10th, 2014

By David Shadovitz | Human Resource Executive, July 10, 2014

Anti-bullying legislation continues to gain momentum in state legislatures, with Tennessee becoming the first state to pass anti-bullying legislation.

On June 17, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law the Healthy Workplace Act, a law that affects the practices of state and local government agencies. Private employers are not affected.

The law defines “harassment, intimidation or bullying” as any act that “substantially interferes with a person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment,” and instructs the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernment Relations to create a model policy by next March. Employers have the option to adopt the TACIR policy or not. Those deciding to enact it would be immune from claims arriving from bullying behavior.

Proponents of anti-bullying legislation and experts believe other states could soon follow in the Volunteer State’s footsteps, with some pointing to New York and Massachusetts as the most likely to pass anti-bullying laws that would also include private-sector employers.

So far, 28 states have introduced anti-bullying legislation this year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash.

In June, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla vetoed legislation that would have held both public- and private-sector employers in that territory accountable for workplace bullying. In doing so, Padilla pointed to the Department of Justice’s view that the definition of “workplace harassment” is too vague and the fact that victims of workplace bullying can still seek protection under the territory’s Constitution.

Gary Namie, national director of the Workplace Bullying Institute and a chief architect of the Healthy Workplace Act, says his reaction to the Tennessee law is generally positive. Any legislation that focuses on abusive conduct in the workplace breaks the silence, he says. “You’re going to have all of the institutions talking about it now.”

But while he considers the Tennessee law a good first step, Namie adds that he’s disappointed by the legislation’s limited scope and authority, describing it as a “gutted” version of the Healthy Workplaces Act.

Namie notes that it’s also unfortunate that under the act “all of the processes still happen in-house under a shroud of secrecy . . . . “Everything remains internal.”

Recent studies confirm that bullying continues to be a widespread and troubling issue in workplaces.



Reporter dubs Healthy Workplace Bill “Happy”

July 10th, 2014

Lazy reporting pairs with stupid in a single jumbled mess of incorrect attribution and mistakes by writer Susmita Baral at the online site — Wall Street Cheat Sheet.

In one amazing paragraph, Baral wrote:

A recently published VitalSmarts report found some surprising and unsettling findings — a whopping 96 percent of respondents surveyed are reporting that they have experienced workplace bullying. Workplace bullying — which has been dubbed the “silent epidemic” by Psychology Today — has become such a prevalent concern that twenty-six states have introduced Happy Workplace bills to combat the trend.

The Happy (sic) Workplace bills. Really?

Happy instead of Healthy is not just a typo, it’s a glossing over of this serious problem in the workplace. It’s the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), stupid.

Baral sets the low threshold by which internet writers can now be judged. It’s mostly happy talk and mindless drivel to drive advertising dollars to web sites. Monetization is ubiquitous. Baral can be forgiven because before her mindless bullying article, she wrote these enticing pieces: “Americans consume 23 sticks of butter a year: Is the habit healthy?” Facial cleansing 101: How to properly clean your face.”

The Problem With Stupidity

Calling HWB “Happy” diminishes the seriousness of the impact abusive interpersonal conduct has on abused workers. It conveys the erroneous message that if you are experiencing clinical depression as a result of your work environment and the abusive people responsible for its toxicity, there must be something wrong with you. If you are not “happy,” it’s your fault. Happy workplaces are employers’ goals. Yeah, right.

Healthy, in terms of safety from health-harming intimidation, domination and verbal abuse, is positive enough. We — WBI — named it the Healthy Workplace Bill to deliberately challenge lawmakers who oppose the bill to say they see nothing wrong with abusive conduct. Of course, every opposing lawmaker remarks publicly in committee hearings, “Now I’m not in favor of abuse, but …” then they rally to vote to support abusive employers.

Happy is a frivolous goal. Healthy connotes overcoming stress-induced health problems.

A longer version of this piece can be found at the WBI Blog.