Posts Tagged ‘Gary Namie’


Comstock’s: Calif mag scrutinizes new workplace bullying law

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

This Time, It’s Personal
Will legislation to protect employees from workplace bullying stifle demanding managers?

By Steven Yoder, Comstock’s, March 31, 2015

Carrie Clark, 63, says bullies aren’t confined to playgrounds. Sometimes, they run the whole school. 

In 1995, Clark directed an English as a Second Language program in West Sacramento’s Washington Unified School District. An influx of foreign students was forcing her staff to work ever-longer hours. She wrote several reports to the district superintendent documenting the extra load and asking for more help. She got no response, she says. So her teachers union representative suggested she put together a petition signed by program staff.

That got a reaction, but not the one she wanted. The superintendent took Clark off of the school’s committee of department chairs and canceled and consolidated classes. Clark says he called her house and left an odd, garbled message, and one day after a meeting, he followed her into an empty hallway. Towering over her, his face a foot from hers, he screamed that he wanted “no more petitions!”

Scared, Clark quit a few weeks later. She developed tremors in her right side, which she still has, started having heart palpitations and couldn’t sleep. Today, when she talks about what happened, her speech slows to a crawl and her voice quavers like a warped record. A Sacramento occupational medicine specialist diagnosed her with a post-traumatic stress disorder related to her job. After a 20-year teaching career, she’d never set foot in a classroom again. In 2002, she won a $150,000 workers’ compensation claim against the district.

There’s evidence that the superintendent targeted others who crossed him. He took a job in a district near Yuba City, and in January 1999 the teachers association president there told The Valley Mirror that the superintendent verbally threatened her and that she’d asked a court for a restraining order. She also told a reporter that she was having panic attacks for the first time in her life. (The superintendent, now retired, keeps an unlisted phone number and didn’t respond to a certified letter sent to his address requesting an interview.)

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Times-Argus: Make workplaces safe from bullies

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

By Sherill Gilbert, Times-Argus, March 3, 2015

Since 2007, the healthy workplace bill has remained on the committee’s wall. Each new biennium this bill has been re-introduced. In January, Sen. Anthony Pollina has once again sponsored the bill. In the midst of budget issues, the talk of cutting jobs and programs only furthers the need to pass this bill. The bill would not require the state to fund this bill. It will increase productivity; it will mean employees would thrive in a safe and healthy environment; it will mean fewer sick calls and a decrease in errors. Perhaps even more important would be improvements to the morale and loyalty of staff.

For the state this would translate into more tax revenues to help lessen Vermont’s money woes. I am sure many of you are asking how this could be.

Bullying has been estimated to cost the United States $300 billion that is passed on to goods and services, including health care. Bullies are extremely costly as well as a threat to the targets, families, community and health of the economy.

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Legislative season update for the Healthy Workplace Bill

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

The WBI State Coordinators are hard at work meeting with legislative sponsors for the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Here’s a status report. As of Feb. 10 …

• North Dakota became the 27th state to introduce something — HB 1428. That something is a simple paragraph declaring that public sector employers have to address harassment, ostensibly not just the currently illegal variety of discriminatory misdeeds. The bill cleared the House on a 91-0 vote and is on to the Senate for consideration. Visit the ND State page at the HWB website for details.

• Connecticut has a somewhat related bill — SB 432. It creates an “advisory board,” akin to past study groups and task forces that lawmakers use to delay taking any real action. Visit the CT State page at the HWB website for details.

• Utah’s HB 216 is the boldest of the small step bills to date. It requires employers to address the HWB’s definition of health-harming abusive conduct by providing annual training. Better than California’s recently implemented training mandate, Utah would require coverage of not only the definition of the phenomenon, but its effect on worker’s health and a description of what remedies the employer has in effect. Visit the UT State page at the HWB website for details.

• We saved the best for last. New York returns to lead the nation with a complete Healthy Workplace Bill in the Assembly — A 3250. The bill provides legal redress for employees harmed by abusive conduct. It rewards proactive employers who voluntarily protect workers with adequate policies and procedures with a litigation prevention mechanism. It defines the phenomenon and applies to employers in both private and public sectors. Our State Coordinators continue to set the highest bar for comparison. A 3250 has 80 co-sponsors. The Senate companion bill is in the works. Visit the NY State page at the HWB website for details.

Stay tuned for major developments as additional states come on board.

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Training in workplace bullying/abusive conduct is necessary but not sufficient

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

In 2015, California law mandates that supervisors in all firms with 50 or more employees receive “training” in abusive conduct. The term “abusive conduct” was lifted from the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill language we have been using since 2003 to introduce and pass a comprehensive law against workplace bullying.

Training done right can overcome deficits in skills. Training is the wrong tool to reverse immoral conduct. But training is useful to make everyone aware that misconduct is happening.

Training backfires when it teaches there is a problem and the organization has no procedures in place to deal with the misconduct. It’s clear that only a small (5.5%) of American employers have the will to actually prevent or correct health-harming abusive conduct. No effective state laws have yet been enacted to compel employer compliance. So, few have good policies. Even fewer have the voluntary desire to stop it. No laws; no policies; lazy employers.

When supervisors get trained, in the best possible way — live, interactive, Q&A sessions, employee expectations will rise. Everyone will wonder when and how the bullying will end in their workplace. If employer actions are limited to supervisor training, very little will be done. Employee distrust and disengagement will follow.

Another concern is how will the training be conducted? The new law based on AB 2053, adds training in abusive conduct (which is currently legal) to the requisite training in sexual harassment (which is illegal). The mix will not only confuse employees; most employers don’t know the difference. Workers will be expecting policies for bullying to apply that don’t exist.

It is alarming to find that many employers post online slide shows to educate workers about sexual harassment. It’s a joke that no one takes seriously. A slide show with little content and no interaction. Really, how lazy can employers be. It’s called “compliance.” Given the complexity of bullying’s effect on the entire workplace and the fact that current sex harass trainers and conflict resolution professionals don’t understand bullying, we fear for the future.

In other words, disembodied training can do more harm than good. Beware of premature awareness!

Training should be preceded by a commitment by leadership to stopping bullying. Then, organizational prevalence should be determined. Next, a code or policy or set of behavioral expectations must be created along with procedures to correct confirmed violators. Then, and only then, should training be undertaken.

If you know of, or are, a California employer, contact WBI for help addressing the problem that will comply with the law and help your organization at the same time. We have also produced a 20 min. DVD to introduce Abusive Conduct to organizations.

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U-T: About California’s new law to train supervisors about abusive conduct

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

State to Workplace Bullies: Knock It Off
By Jonathan Horn, San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 2, 2014

When Stephen Cruz got a new supervisor a few years ago, his staff job at UC San Diego became something of a living hell.

The new boss would repeatedly yell at workers, scold them behind closed doors, tower above them at their desks, get visibly agitated and red in the face, and send out harsh emails when something went wrong. The emails didn’t include foul language but called out workers with phrases like “I told you,” or “I gave you a direct order,” evidence of what Cruz called extreme micromanagement.

“It may have been stylistic, but it was unacceptable,” said Cruz, who works on the medical school campus. “Yes, we need supervisors. Yes, we need managers. But we’re not at each other’s throats. We’re there to work on the mission of the university.”

Cruz, 46, said he considered the supervisor’s conduct — which improved after university and union involvement — to be abusive.

A state law taking effect Jan. 1 hopes to curb that behavior at the start. The legislation, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires that employers in California with 50 or more workers include lessons on anti-workplace bullying when they carry out state-mandated sexual harassment training for supervisors every two years.

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Healthy Workplace Bill legislation: A 2014 perspective on distorted amendments

Monday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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.

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Wall Street Journal: First State Workplace Bullying Law Has Few Fans

Friday, June 20th, 2014

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.

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L & S: Bullying has to stop

Monday, April 7th, 2014

By Jane Mundy, Lawyers and Settlements, April 7, 2014

Craig, a commercial truck driver, isn’t about to take bullying lying down. He believes this type of harassment should be a violation of the California labor law. Unfortunately, this type of harassment is not contrary to the California labor code, but wrongful termination is.

If not for Craig being pro-active, he wouldn’t be able to collect unemployment insurance. His boss, the owner of the trucking company, accused Craig of misconduct and fired him. Initially Unemployment Insurance denied his claim but he went before an impartial unemployment Administration Law judge who sided with him.

“That was one notch in my favor and I was able to collect backpay, but I still haven’t been paid for the week I worked, and even more important, this guy shouldn’t get away with his bullying,” says Craig. “I only worked one week for him and it was probably the worst week of my life.

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