Watch workplace bullying target Neal describe the abuse he endured and the effect that the abuse have on his daily life.
Lawmakers, who support employer claims that bullying is best handled voluntarily, without creating a law to keep them honest, love to criticize the HWB as lacking a clear definition. Actually, the bill is specific and tough in two ways. First, it gives four classes of abusive conduct that are actionable — (1) verbal abuse, (2) conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating, (3) work interference, and (4) exploitation of a known vulnerability, physical or psychological. Second, it requires evidence of health harm.
Business lobby opponents ignore the clarity and whine that workplace bullying cannot be defined, that it is purely subjective (in the eye of the beholder). The HWB does not mention workplace bullying. Instead it refers to an abusive work environment and abusive conduct.
Undermining opponent arguments is the legal precedent of Title VII Civil Rights law defining “Sexual Harassment.” Here is the exact text from the CFR, Code of Federal Regulations. It too could be considered “subjective.” And it is the law of the land!
CFR Title 29: Labor
Subtitle B: Regulations Relating to Labor (Continued)
CHAPTER XIV: EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
PART 1604: GUIDELINES ON DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF SEX
1604.11 – Sexual harassment.
(a) Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of section 703 of title VII. 1
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
“Hostile” or “offensive” or “intimidating” is defined by the perceptions of the recipient of the unwelcome conduct. It is “subjective.” But it is the law of the land.
One thing for certain … if civil rights advocates tried to pass sex harassment laws today, they would meet the same resistance we meet as advocates for the anti-bullying/anti-abuse Healthy Workplace Bill. Anti-discrimination would never pass in this polarized political and hate-filled climate.
The network of volunteer State Coordinators and their army of outspoken Citizen Lobbyists are not giving up. The campaign begins anew in 2013. We will eventually prevail, we own the moral high ground.
Workplace Bullying and specifically the Healthy Workplace Bill promoted here at Campaign headquarters were featured in a May 2012 presentation titled “Hot Topics on D&O and Employment Practices Liability” at the University of Chicago conducted by four corporate employment attorneys.
After an honest review of what HWB does for employers and for workers and what it does not do, the advocates for employers said
Employers are wise to get ahead of this trend and address workplace bullies in a proactive manner. Whether HWBs are passed …, current personnel policies should be examined to ensure that bullying is prohibited, that there is a policy in place for employees to report such misconduct, and that all reports of bullying (whether they are based on protected characteristics or not) are taken seriously.
Good for them for saying this. We at the HWC are glad that employers are starting to hear from their own advisers that bullying should be taken as seriously as civil rights violations. That’s one of the two goals of the legislation.
On July 25, WV State Coordinators – Lana Cooke and attorney Taylor Downs – addressed the interim Joint Judiciary Committee in Charleston about HB 3015. They taught lawmakers about the phenomenon of Workplace Bullying and the rationale for the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. The state chamber of commerce also testified. The hearing was covered in the Morgantown, WV Dominion Post by David Beard. Here’s the text of the article. Download a copy. Visit the WV State Page to volunteer to help, if you are a resident.
Bill’s author explains why workplace-bully law needed.
By David Beard, The Dominion Post [Morgantown, WV], July 22, 2012
Attorney Taylor Downs explains the rationale for HB 3015, West Virginia’s first-ever version of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, sponsored by Delegate Linda Longstreth. A hearing is scheduled for Tues. July 23 before the interim Joint Judiciary committee.
Details of the bill can be found on the WV State Page at this website.
Legislative Bullying by Boston Herald Editorial Staff, Monday, July 9, 2012
We knew there were some lawmakers on Beacon Hill who didn’t give a fig about the cost of doing business in this state, as year after year they pushed costly mandates like a paid sick leave bill that would drive down wages and other benefits while thwarting the creation of new jobs.
Thanks to the savvy of legislative leaders in this election year this session’s version of the leave bill was doomed to a study last week. But then we got wind of an even sillier piece of anti-business legislation. This one presumes to legislate a “healthy workplace” by outlawing bullying at work.
The bill — which won initial House approval in June and awaits further action before the July 31 end of formal sessions — vaguely defines abusive treatment (“employee acts, omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find hostile,” etc.) and declares an employer liable for such abusive actions by its employees.
The bill empowers courts both to order a halt to the abusive treatment and — here’s where it’s gift-wrapped for trial lawyers — “order any other relief that is deemed appropriate.”
The bill helpfully spells “relief” as reinstatement, firing the offending employee, back pay, front pay, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Basically anything the court deems appropriate.
But why stop there? As long as lawmakers are getting into the business of human resources consulting why not an explicit demand that the victim of bullying or harassment get a promotion and a company car?
Abuse in the workplace can be a serious issue but one that is properly handled . . . in the workplace.
What we have here is a bill that renders the state the ultimate personnel department in charge of mediating private employee disputes.
We get that bullying is trending on Twitter these days but the push for this bill is yet another case of legislative overreach.
If you recognize that the Herald editors are using tired old canards with no imagination, you can write a comment about their position.
The naivete of the editors shows when they suggest that the personnel department (who says that anymore?) can handle the epidemic problem of workplace bullying, actually health-harming abusive conduct as defined in the HWB, without the state taking over. Two problems with this assertion. (1) If HR had been effective on-site, bullying would have been eliminated by now and not a problem. (2) Nowhere in the text of the bill does the state play a role — not to gather complaints, not to investigate, not to decide innocence or guilt, not to punish guilty employers.
Herald editors aren’t illiterate. By inserting quotes from the bill, they demonstrate they can read. However, they only read what they want and ignore the clear language such as the only path to justice for a bullied worker will be “private right of action.” That means paying out of pocket for expensive lawyers.
The Joint Judiciary Subcommittee A of the West Virginia Legislature will hold a July 24 hearing on the topic of workplace bullying (introduced by Delegate Longstreth HB 3015) at the Capitol. Tuesday July 24, hearing beginning at 5 pm. All interested parties should (1) contact the WV State Coordinators through the WV State page at this website, and (2) assemble in the hall outside the meeting room (once inside, you will stand against the wall surrounding the seated committee members). The location will be Room – 410 M. Download a Capitol Map here.
Another video produced by the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates. Suffolk Law Prof. David Yamada, author of the HWB as introduced in all states, describes the movement to pass the bill (in 2012, the bills are H 2310 and S 916) into law. The legislative session ends in July. Visit the MA State page at the national website to write letters to House and Senate members imploring them to pass the bill on the House and Senate floors.
Prof. Yamada’s affiliation with WBI began shortly after the birth of the movement. In 2000, he published the seminal legal article defining workplace bullying for the legal profession (Georgetown Law Journal). In 2001, he wrote the first version of the Healthy Workplace Bill that we then convinced lawmakers in California to introduce in 2003, the first of 21 states.
Since then, Prof Yamada has written extensively about the necessity of creating laws that benefit humans. He is part of the movement within the legal education community called “therapeutic jurisprudence.” A listing of his published papers available for free download from the SSRN website can be found here. He also writes a marvelous blog titled “Minding the Workplace.”
Website: MA Healthy Workplace Advocates
Greg is affiliated with WBI in many ways. He attended Workplace Bullying University. Shortly thereafter, he applied his knowledge as union officer for a decade to lead, with Dr. Gary Namie, the first-ever Workplace Bullying University for Union members only.
Greg successfully bargained for the first-in-the-U.S. anti-bullying bargaining agreement provision (Mutual Respect 6A) for 21,000 NAGE Massachusetts State workers. And has used that provision and newer ones to combat bullying by the state.
Greg’s union joined forces with the Healthy Workplace Campaign to lobby for the Healthy Workplace Bill in his home state, Massachusetts. In 2012, H 2310 and S 916 are poised to be the first bills passed into law in the U.S. specifically because he is one of three State Co-Coordinators.
Finally, Greg is a dear friend to WBI. His marvelous ability to communicate using his background as a clinical social worker has extended the WBI message that workplace bullying is preventable and stoppable. He is one of the best ambassadors for the movement in the U.S.
Website: MA Healthy Workplace Advocates
by Eesha Williams, Valley Post
Bullying by bosses leads some workers to commit acts of violence, and causes stress-related health problems in many more workers. Massachusetts is poised to become the first state in the nation to pass a law against workplace bullying. Vermont is likely to pass similar legislation next year. Legislation in New Hampshire is stalled.