Posts Tagged ‘SHRM’

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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NPR: Workplace bullying and the Healthy Workplace Bill

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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.


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Benefits Pro: Workplace bullying legislation repeatedly defeated

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

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.”


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SHRM opposes anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The advocacy group for Human Resources (HR) issued an alert for SHRM members in June 2010 to oppose the NY versions of the HWB. In brief, Bob Carragher, SHRM’s manager of government relations (chief national lobbyist) and Susan Corcoran, NY state legislative director (state lobbyist) claim our legislation is “bad for business and bad for New York.”  The two issued a “Talking Points” memo related to the bills that fell into our hands. Here is the text verbatim with WBI counterpoint in italics:

Human resource professionals, by the very nature of their positions, are dedicated to advocating for the interests of all employees in their organizations.

[Not true. HR is a management support function and acts accordingly. HR is not in the employee advocacy business, only unions are. To say otherwise is disingenuous.]

One of the many daily tasks of an effective HR practitioner is ensuring a positive work environment for all.  Recognizing that an abusive work environment can have a serious effect on both the morale and health of their employees, while also seriously impacting the image and profitability of an organization, most employers (through their HR departments) have conducted extensive educational/awareness programs on the negative impact “bullying” can have in the workplace.

[Ensuring a positive environment for all?  Give me a break! By allowing health-harming bullying to continue unabated as HR departments do, HR sustains an employee health and safety risk for those not fortunate enough to be considered credible to disbelieving HR types. In 2007, our national survey found that 44% of employers did nothing about bullying and 18% actually worsened situations for bullied individuals. So, where are the “extensive” awareness programs about bullying? And if they even exist, as run by HR, why are they so ineffective as to not put a dent into bullying’s prevalence. Perhaps because Bob and Susan (above) can’t bring themselves to take bullying seriously. That’s why they put it in quotes — “bullying.” Similarly, HR workers like to define themselves as HR “professionals.”]

A. 05414B, as currently drafted, could have serious ramifications for employers doing business in New York State.  In short, the bill could:
– Strain the day-to-day employer/employee relations in workplaces throughout the Empire State.  Many employers make great efforts to provide a positive work environment, backing these efforts with formal dispute resolution processes, written codes of conduct and open door policies.

[Great efforts to create safe work environments would produce results and eliminate bullying. The very existence of bullying is testimony that either the efforts are not great or HR is completely ineffective. Ironic that the lobbyists use the term “strain” which has meaning in the occupational health literature. Job strain refers to increasing task demand while simultaneously depriving a worker control over her or his taskload. Dispute resolution refers to forcing mediation down the throats of the already compromised targeted person, codes of conduct are as empty as flowery mission, vision, values statements that ring hollow, and open doors (?) are useless if  nothing results from meetings in the rooms with open or closed doors. Open doors implies that management will listen. Not if their favorite bully “Sleezy” is being exposed. Sleezy can never do wrong. This is all drivel.]

– Undermine good faith efforts by employers to establish positive work environments.  In addition, this legislation would significantly increase litigation and employers’ exposure to liability for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

[Bob and Susan have not read the bill and Susan works at JacksonLewis, dragonslayers for corporate masters. According to the bill itself, employers who take care to prevent and correct abusive conduct will be rewarded with escape from (affirmative defenses for) vicarious liability. The bill when it becomes law will reward good employers. The careful reference to good faith rather than actual employer efforts that result in a policy and faithful enforcement of it is not an accident. Shrmy wants credit for trying even if they fall short.]

– Create an incentive for certain individuals to “game the system” in an effort to seek monetary gain.  With the possibility of reaping a windfall from civil awards of compensatory and punitive damages, unscrupulous individuals could be tempted to claim physical or psychological harm due to an abusive work environment, requiring their employer to incur legal fees and lost work time defending themselves against such charges.

[Here Bob and Susan are branding the majority of employees, the non-supervisory ones, as fraudulent, unscrupulous schemers. How did these people get hired? Who did the screening? Oops, that was HR. What about ethics training? Again, HR. And if a person makes a claim of psychological harm, shouldn’t HR care about that? After all, Bob and Susan stated above that HR advocates for “the interests of all employees. Balderdash. This bulleted point shows the actual contempt HR and corp defense attorneys have for employees who dare sue. Bob and Susan did not read the bill. It is not sufficient that the misconduct be abusive and health-harming, it must also be repeated and malicious.

The only real system that is gamed is the HR “sham investigation” whereby the bully is asked if he committed the atrocities. He says “no.” HR concludes the target-complainant is a liar and begins branding the target as troublemaker. As WBI research shows, 64% of targets lose their jobs for having done nothing more than being in harm’s way when a bully came calling. The “HR system” is a cruel one of health harm and job/career loss. The only schemers are bullies and their accomplices, HR.]

– Prove as a deterrent to drawing businesses to locate in New York State.  Given that New York would be the first state in the country to provide such a right, this legislation could have a chilling effect on the business climate of our state.

[This is the Bloomberg/Chamber of Commerce Big Lie. Where will they go? If they want the talent that NY state residents bring, the biz stays in the state. Otherwise, if they are big enough, they go offshore to China. If that happens, they won’t take HR with them. We say that if you have to be abusive to run a state or municipal agency or a company in NY State, then you should lose your charter to do so. Will it take the Foxconn rash of worker suicides to get American employers to stop the abuse?]

End of SHRM Talking Points

There you have it. HR, the folks with “human” in their job title choose to lobby against the humans working for them in favor of obscure, inanimate needs of an impersonal corporate entity. Little wonder they have little credibility in the C-suite. Though this lapdog, ingratiating fealty to corporate masters is designed to make them appear allies to the CEO, the toadying up, they still won’t gain the respect HR craves.

The dramatic opposition to working people captured in this lobbying document by HR cements the already negative societal impression. It should remove any lingering doubt by the most optimistic and uncritical soul that HR is not your friend or advocate. HR does not deserve workers’ trust, ever!

If HR opposes stopping abuse in the American workplace, then it necessarily seeks to promote it. Based on HR’s unconscionable reaction to bullying when it is currently reported, that is clearly the case.

Please write directly to Bob Carragher at
and  Susan Corcoran  at  to let them know what you think about SHRM’s position and the ethicality of their lobbying work.

G. Namie

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