If You Don’t Want Anti-Bullying Legislation, Give Me a ‘Hell Yeah!’
by Jon Hyman, Workforce Management, April 3, 2014
Bullying in the workplace isn’t illegal, unless it’s bullying because of some protected characteristic (sex, race, etc.). Yet, just because something is legal doesn’t mean it should be condoned.
According to Today’s General Counsel (citing the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2014 US Workplace Bullying Survey), an astounding 72 percent of employees report that their employers have not done anything to curb bullying in the workplace.
The quickest way to ensure that generalized workplace bullying becomes illegal is for employers to continue to ignore it. If employees continued to report that they are being bullied, and that their employers are not doing anything to stop it, legislatures will step in and pass anti-bullying laws.
So, what should you do? Treat bullying like it’s illegal. Create a workplace culture in which bullying is not permitted to occur.
• Include bullying in your anti-harassment or other workplace conduct policies.
• Train your employees about how you don’t allow bullying, and what to do (i.e., how to report) incidents of bullying.
• When an employee complains about bullying, don’t ignore it, investigate it.
• After the investigation, implement corrective actions, commensurate with the severity of the conduct, to reasonably insure that it does not reoccur.
You might think it’s OK to ignore bullying in your workplace because there is no law against it, but legislatures won’t. They will fill the void with laws that you will not like (and, if the Workplace Bullying Institute’s survey is anywhere close to accurate, 72 percent is a big void). Do right by your employees. Do not give legislatures any reason to pass over-reaching laws that will hamper your ability to manage your employees.
Heed these words, which I wrote all the way back in 2011:
Businesses need to have the discretion to manage their workforces. Anti-bullying laws will eviscerate that discretion. Just because generalized bullying is not illegal does not mean that employers lack incentive to act preventively and responsively. To the contrary, the marketplace creates the incentive to treat employees well. Bad bosses beget revolving-door workforces, doomed to failure. Good bosses create loyalty and retain good employees, which breeds success. Imposing liability merely for being subjected to a bad boss sets a dangerous precedent that will eliminate the “at will” from all employment relationships.
Or, to put it in simpler terms, do the right thing, or the government will eventually make you.
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. He is a Workforce contributing editor. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Hyman on Twitter at @JonHyman. You can also follow him on Google Plus.
By Katherine Hermes, Guest Op-Ed, Connecticut Mirror, March 19, 2014
If you knew that 900,000 Connecticut residents experienced a particular problem at work, wouldn’t you want to fix that problem? That’s how many workers in our state have experienced abusive conduct on the job.
There are problems great and small, global and local. But when you are the target of a bully, the problems are so personal and isolating that a wider world ceases to exist. My friend Marlene (Braun) was a conservationist, a birdwatcher, a lover of literature and film, an enthusiastic cook, a traveler, a scientist—but once the bully had hold of her, a suicide.
Her death catapulted me into a movement, founded by the Workplace Bullying Institute, to try to stop workplace bullying. I discovered that workplace abuse was not illegal unless the campaign of destruction was directly related to the protected status of the person being bullied. If the bully did not harass the target because of race, religion, sex, age, and so forth, it was legal conduct.
This week in anti-bullying legislative news:
Albany, New York
Tuesday March 18 at 1 pm
LCA Room, Legislative Office Building
Advocates for New York bills: A4965 & S3863
- Assemblyman Steve Englebright & Senator Diane Savino, bill sponsors
– Mike Schlicht & Tom Witt, NY Healthy Workplace Advocates
– Randy Goldberg, President CSEA Local 658, Albany
– John Richter, Mental Health Assoc in NY State (MHANYS)
– Citizen advocates
Contact: Elizabeth Nostrand for ASM Englebright – 518-455-4804
Tuesday March 18 at 1:30 pm
Legislative Plaza Room 12
State Capitol complex
Public hearing for SB 2226
Senate Commerce and Labor Committee
Chair Sen. Jack Johnson, Vice-Chair Sen. Mark Green, and Vice-Chair Charlotte Burks
Contact these Committee members using our E-Z Letter e-mailing tool on the TN State Page of the national Healthy Workplace Campaign website.
Wednesday March 19 at Noon
Room HHR 30, State Capitol
Public hearing for HB 1981
House Local Government Subcommittee.
Chair, Rep. Joe Carr
Contact Rep. Carr and HB 1981 Rep. Parkinson using our E-Z Letter e-mailing tool on the TN State Page of the national Healthy Workplace Campaign website.
By Scott Wooldridge, Benefits Pro, March 3, 2014
Public awareness of workplace bullying has never been higher, thanks to high-profile cases such as the one involving ” target=”_blank”>Miami Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Yet none of the more than two dozen states that have taken up the issue has actually passed any legislation to tackle the problem.
A recent survey found that 93 percent of Americans support legislation that would offer protections against bullying at work. The survey, conducted by Zogby Analytics for the Workplace Bullying Institute, found that 27 percent of Americans report having experienced abusive conduct at work. Another 21 percent say they have witnessed such behavior. Overall, 72 percent of those surveyed said they were aware of the issue of workplace bullying.
“Everybody has a story,” said Gary Namie, co-founder and director of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “It is an epidemic. When you count witnesses, 65 million people in the workforce know firsthand what (bullying) is about.”
The Incognito-Martin case brought workplace bullying into the spotlight.
Martin accused Incognito of bullying him, and then left the team. A lawyer hired by the National Football League to investigate the matter recently released a report concluding that Incognito “engaged in a pattern of harassment” of Martin.
Namie and his Bellingham, Wash.-based institute have been working on the issue for more than 20 years, but he said that the Incognito-Martin case caused “a tectonic shift.”
By Scott Whipple, The Bristol (CT) Press, March 1, 2014
NEW BRITAIN — Workplace bullying is back in the public eye.
According to a recent national survey, an overwhelming majority of Americans — 93 percent — support enactment of a new law that would protect workers from repeated abusive treatment at work. Only 1 percent strongly oppose such a measure.
“Because of the strong public support and stories from Connecticut citizens we are seeking sponsors in the state legislature to enact the Anti-Bullying Healthy Workplace Bill” said Katherine Hermes, state co-coordinator promoting the legislation.
Ban on workplace bullying stalled at Vermont Statehouse
Advocacy group asks lawmakers to hold public hearing
by Stewart Ledbetter, WPTZ, NBC-TV, Montpelier, VT, Feb. 28, 2014
Sherill Gilbert says she walks the Statehouse hallways as often as she can, trying to persuade members of the Legislature to take up her cause.
She’s determined, even after five years without much success.
“I’d love to see Vermont become first state with law against workplace bullying,” Gilbert said Thursday. “I’ve heard from people from all 14 Vermont counties. Somebody needs to do something. It’s the only legalized abuse in the United States.”
On Wed. Feb. 12, host Chuck Finney, San Mateo Deputy District Attorney (Ret.), of the show Your Legal Rights on San Francisco’s KALW, invited Dr. Gary Namie, WBI Director and Orange County plaintiff’s attorney and co-founder of CELA (California Employment Lawyers Association), William Crosby, to discuss the challenges of Workplace Bullying.
Listen to the 27 min. broadcast.
In the Tennessee House, Rep. Antonio Parkinson introduced HB 1981, the Healthy Workplace Bill to combat workplace bullying. Sen. Jim Kyle simultaneously introduced the companion bill, SB 2226.
Both bills mark the introduction of Tennessee to the legislative fight against workplace bullying. It is the 26th state to have taken this step since we began the campaign in 2003 in California.
SEIU Local 1984, representing New Hampshire State workers, has engineered passage of HB 591 (a unionized version of the full Healthy Workplace Bill) in both the House and Senate. Senate passage by voice vote was recorded on Jan. 30, 2014. The bill returns to the House to reconcile differences in amendments.
Visit the NH State Page to thank all bill sponsors, especially Rep. Diane Schuett.