By Adam Rubenfire – The Wall Street Journal – June 20, 2014
Last month, after a decade of stalled progress in 26 states, advocates of workplace bullying legislation scored their first victory. But they’re not entirely pleased.
Tennessee approved the Healthy Workplace Act on May 22, a law designed to curb verbal abuse at work by making public-sector employers immune to bullying-related lawsuits if they adopt a policy that complies with the law.
Though federal laws outlaw workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and other protected statuses, advocates like Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, are lobbying for laws that recognize the verbal abuse of coworkers regardless of whether they fall under a protected class.
Dr. Namie, a social psychologist, said the Tennessee law doesn’t go far enough. The bill his staff drafted for the legislature would have allowed both public and private employers to be held liable in civil lawsuits regarding incidents of alleged workplace bullying if they failed to enforce policies that recognize and protect workers who claim physical or mental harm as a result of bullying.
However, the signed law applies only to public-sector employers, and administrators aren’t required to follow guidelines that the law ordered a state commission to draft by March 2015. Instead, they’re incentivized to do so in exchange for immunity from potential lawsuits.
Under the new law, individual employees may still be held personally liable for abusive conduct.
On June 18, 2014, 9 am, Room 20 House Building, the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee will hear testimony from Rep. Kevin J. Stratton and Utah State Coordinator Denise Halverson, PhD.
The committee will discuss: Abusive workplace conduct defined as malicious, repeated, health-harming mistreatment: verbal abuse, threats, humiliation, intimidation, work sabotage, exploitation of a known vulnerability, or retaliation for ethical conduct. An abusive work environment exists when an employer or one or more of its employees, acting with intent to cause pain or distress to an employee, subjects that employee to abusive workplace conduct that causes physical harm, psychological harm, or both. The committee will hear a presentation on the prevalence and effect of abusive work environments and discuss future legislative options.
Visit the Utah State Page to volunteer to get involved in this campaign to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill next year.
If you are new to being bullied at work, you necessarily are consumed by righting the wrong and healing from the self-blame and shame that accompanies it. If you are reading this, you have discovered the WBI website that confirms you did nothing wrong, nor did you deserve the denigration, humiliation or ostracism.
You might have missed the fact that since 2001 we have spearheaded the effort in states to pass a law that would have given you a chance to threaten your employer with a lawsuit. Without the threat of a law, US employers are letting the perpetrators run with impunity. And that doesn’t even count bullying done on behalf of executives and senior managers.
The name of our legislation is the Healthy Workplace Bill. Volunteer Coordinators in 36 states have managed to get the bill introduced in 26 states and in 2 territories — the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The process is just beginning in the USVI, but progress is significant in PR.
Senator Rosanna Lopez Leon was the prime sponsor of S 501. The bill passed all committees, and both Camara (House) and Senado (Senate) floor votes. Reconciliation of the different versions was completed on June 3.
The bill awaits Gov. Padilla’s signature.
Sen. Clarence Payne, Chair of the Health, Hospitals, Human Services & Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the U.S. Virgin Islands legislature. On June 6, in St. Croix, a public hearing for the bill will be heard.
Please visit the USVI Page at the HWB website and use the E-Z letter writer to show your support to committee members.
A good news / bad news tale. First, the good. On June 3, the Gov. signed into law encouraging public sector employers to adopt policies to address abusive conduct, the way WBI defines workplace bullying. Kudos go to brave Rep. Antonio Parkinson who took the full Healthy Workplace Bill through several committees. The bill did not survive intact, but the state is the first state to adopt a policy-driven approach taken by several counties and cities across the country. Read the details at the TN State Page of the HWB website.
Sadly, on the same week, Memphis WREG-TV-3 reported the Jim Crow era-like conduct of a white supervisor at a cotton warehouse toward black workers. No water fountain, no microwave, the days of segregation were good! The owner said he “outsources management services.” Watch the story that is the basis of an EEOC discrimination case.
Tennessee state lawmakers made bipartisan progress toward fully addressing workplace bullying. Gov. Haslam signed into law on June 3, 2014 a bill that gives all public sector government employers (state, county, city, schools, districts) an incentive to adopt a policy.
The policy is to address the prevention of abusive conduct and prohibit retaliation. The state will create a model policy which government employers may adopt or create their own. There is no state mandate to adopt, but there is a strong incentive. Visit the TN State Page for details.
Rep. Antonio Parkinson made Tennessee the 26th State to introduce the Healthy Workplace Bill with his efforts. He proved a steadfast advocate for workers’ rights in a southern “right to work” state. He worked tirelessly through many committee battles and produced a good first effort toward providing protections for workers against injury from abusive conduct.
States Consider Bills To Crack Down On Workplace Bullies
By Yuki Noguchi, National Public Radio (NPR), May 27, 2014
Bullying is a behavioral problem often associated with children in grade school, but according to the Workplace Bullying Institute more than a quarter of American workers say they’ve experienced abusive conduct at work.
Now, many states are considering laws that would give workers legal protections against workplace abuse.
Lisa-Marie Mulkern says her boss — the commandant of a retirement home for veterans in New Hampshire — turned on her after she expressed concerns about what she calls wasteful financial management. Mulkern was working as a public-relations manager and fundraiser at the home.
“Even though residents and their families had nothing but praise for my work, and the home’s publicity continued to increase, the commandant started to make my work situation a living hell,” she says.
Mulkern says she was repeatedly excluded from meetings and denied credit for her work and access to critical information. Colleagues took notice but treated her like she was contagious. “And I was told point blank, ‘You’re on your own with that one, Lisa-Marie,’ ” she says.
Mulkern says she lost weight and sleep from the stress.
“I didn’t realize how much of a toll it was taking on me. I was the public face of the home, and I was trying to look the part of the PR person and not let people know that personally, I was being pummeled at work,” she says.
In 2006, after four years working at the retirement home, Mulkern tangled with her boss over a bad evaluation, and lost her job. The current commandant of the home declined to discuss Mulkern’s case, citing state privacy laws. But Mulkern has since testified several times before the New Hampshire legislature, which is one of 15 states, including, and,that are considering bills giving legal protection to workers harmed in abusive work environments.
Jane Bethel is the Virginia State Coordinator to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, WBI Affiliate and union activist. She is running for Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia. Vote May 6!
The U.S. Supreme Court, the Roberts court, regularly finds in favor of corporations over individuals. In two landmark cases, Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheson (2014), the court gave wealthy individuals unlimited control over the political process — electing politicians and influencing lawmakers concerning public policy laws.
Now comes an empirical analysis of 1,779 public policy laws crafted between 1981 and 2002 by two academic political scientists — Martin Gilens at Princeton and Benjamin Page at Northwestern. The conclusions suggest that oligarchy (or more technically plutocracy) better describes the U.S. than a simple electoral democracy. This is a shot across the bow to defenders of American exceptionalism.
The Massachusetts anti-bullying legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill — HB 1766, passed the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. As of April 7, it is slated for a vote by all members of the House of Representatives. We all stand with the advocates on the ground there — the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates — wish them success. You can track progress on the bill at the MA State Page of the HWB website.