Fortune/CNN Money’s article by Jonathon A. Segal, “Hard to Define: Even Harder To Ban,” clearly recognizes the severity and devastating impact of workplace bullying on the American worker and their employers. It’s been over ten years and 25 states since the first version of the Healthy Workplace Bill was introduced and still no takers. Segal sees a message in this #fail.
March 8, 1998 the Washington Post published an Op-Ed in response to a Supreme Court decision, Oncale v. Sundowner. Sadly, the essence of this Op-Ed still resonates today: “Predicating harassment suits on discrimination is also something of a mismatch; what bothers people about abusive workplace conduct, after all, is not the fact that it may be discriminatory but that it is abusive in the first place… Congress should decouple
It’s hard for targets of workplace bullying to prove their hostile work environment is a clear case of discrimination — bullying by definition falls outside of the protections of Title VII — but some plaintiffs still managed to win by proving they were fired or demoted in retaliation for filing a claim. Today’s Supreme Court decision just made that harder and a second “get out of jail free” card was awarded to businesses when SCOTUS narrowed the definition of whether that jerk harassing you is “technically” your supervisor. In what the Huffington Post called a “rare move,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the court: “Both decisions dilute the strength of Title VII in ways Congress could not have intended,” said Ginsburg, who then called on Congress to change the law to overturn the court.” In Vance v Ball Ginsburg wrote:
According to recently released survey — being unattractive and disagreeable makes someone more vulnerable to bullying at work. Can you spell h-i-g-h s-c-h-o-o-l? Better yet, can you spell m-o-b-b-i-n-g? Here’s the article from Michigan State’s website:
“…Managers must foster an environment of integrity, honesty and respect. This includes creating a work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying of any kind. This type of behavior will not be tolerated and is inconsistent with our values and the Code of Conduct…” BNY MBNA Code of Conduct
Corporate Codes of Conduct
While the U.S. may not have a law in place yet to protect workers from the devastating impact of workplace bullying — or even an agreed upon definition — there are major corporations that recognize the vital role of mutual respect and professionalism. The recent decision of Mark A. Kuzma (Plaintiff) v. MBNA Institutional PA Services, LLC (Defendant) brings home just how powerful these corporate “Codes Of Conduct” can be. According to court papers, Kuzma was terminated by MBNA for repeated breeches of professional conduct as outlined in this 2007 memo Kuzma received putting him on notice:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged the immediate need to combat sexual abuse and harassment in all branches of the military. This will require major overhauls in how the military approaches sexual misconduct amid allegations that one of the people running a prevention program was guilty of the same abuse. “We have a problem with respect for women that leads to many of the situations that result in sexual assault in our Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters in a lengthy interview in his Pentagon offices [Time Magazine ] The Invisible War, the 2012 chilling Academy Award nominated documentary features haunting testimony from rape victims in the military.
We crawled over the figures from the EEOC and BLS to build a map that let’s you see how your State ranks nationally based on the number of EEOC Claims filed in 2012. Keep an eye on all the figures – while California has slightly less claims than Florida it also has half as many employees making California much less toxic. Ohio and Tennessee both show up in the low 3,000′s but Ohio has twice the work force making it twice as hostile. New York looks pretty good as a big employer and only 3.9% of the national average and Massachusetts shines. However, Georgia looks like a place to avoid. You’ll find plenty of data to play with so let us know if you can figure out why some states have more claims than others!
The purpose of my documentary research into the topic of workplace bullying has been to ask several questions – chief among them is:
Can workplace bullying be defined? If so, how and who decides? How do we avoid – and recognize – false accusations?
Below are some popular ways of defining workplace bullying that may be doing more harm than good. This article recognizes the work of those who have gone before and is respectfully intended to break down silos and build bridges that encourage broader more inclusive discussion as we move closer to a legislative solution.
1. NO HARM, NO FOUL:
Smart advocates seek multiple solutions to a problem. Advocates for U.S. workplace bullying legislation often point out that the U.S. is far behind other countries in addressing abusive work environments. But, these countries have a variety of approaches and don’t adhere to endorsing only one approach with one template. Canada’s Bill 168 broadens OHSA (our OSHA) legislation to include bullying. Here in the U.S, Maryland is currently debating Workplace Violence – a golden opportunity to include bullying. Why isn’t SEIU, cited in the article below, stepping up to include bullying (worker on worker violence) in Maryland’s proposed legislation? SEIU has been both the best and worst advocate against bullying. While they should be applauded for being the first to include bullying in contracts with employers, it’s important to understand the problems they face as leading the charge. SEIU successfully defended and reinstated employee who had been removed for alleged abuse to co-workers. Will union leaders develop a broader more inventive approach to fighting employers who bully their employees? Here’s an article on the push for Maryland’s workplace violence legislation:
I’m sure there are tales to be told from inside the Groupon C-Suite. But, it is refreshing to read the letter their CEO, Andrew Mason, sent to employees admitting that the company outgrew him. Mason’s letter is a reminder of a similarly frank email that Yahoo’s then CEO, Carol Bartz, to her employees: “I’ve just been fired.” Mason’s act may have trended on Twitter but an article in the New York Times reminds us that “Regulators cast a dim eye on such promotion during the so-called quiet period for companies waiting to go public, however, and Groupon’s offering is now at risk of being delayed or even pulled.” Warm wishes that the People of Groupon continue to have a job!
If you think the C-Suite isn’t aware of the havoc abusive bosses heap on their employees, think again. According to the startling results of the 2013 Zogby Survey conducted for the Workplace Bullying Institute just *15% of upper management still clings to the outmoded idea that bullying only happens in schools and playgrounds — and perhaps for those lucky few that’s true. In fact, nearly *70% recognize it is a serious problem. Unfortunately, despite this welcome increase in corporate insight, those of us who have been on the receiving end of abusive behavior can certainly argue that this new corporate awareness is less often reflected in how our complaints are addressed. Clearly it’s time to include enlightened employers in the discussions about prevention of abusive work environments. Here’s how Zogby broke down the survey responses:
Recently a member of our Facebook group wrote to say her boss told her he’d be going out of town next week so don’t bother coming in. And, oh yeah, she wouldn’t be paid either. Legal in your state? Ask an attorney. But, here’s what the DOL says: “an employer may change an employee’s work hours without giving prior notice or obtaining the employee’s consent (unless otherwise subject to a prior agreement between the employer and employee or the employee’s representative).” Where are those union contracts when we need them? Few of us really know our rights – here’s an important article by an employment lawyer, Donna Ballman, that EVERY employee needs to read:
It’s barely two years since Massachusetts enacted the Harassment Prevention Order. Recently an attempt to hold Kingston Town Administrator Jim Thomas accountable for alleged abusive conduct fell short. But, Kingston Police Sgt Susan Munford, who made the charges, told the Kingston Reporter: “I’m glad I was heard, I’m glad the restraining order is behind me, and I’m glad he was advised to not have any further incidents with me,” she said. “That gives me peace of mind.” Employment Defense Attorney Denise Murphy advises employers to take precautions because this HPO may well be used in cases of workplace bullying. Here’s a reprint of her 2010 article on the topic:
A recent NLRB decision may help protect that venting you’ve been doing about your job on Facebook – so long as it falls under very specific criteria. But, it also shows how an employer can try to flip that “zero tolerance” “bullying & harassment policy” against employees. Slate summed it up this way: “The case—Hispanics United of Buffalo—started one Saturday morning in 2010. That was when domestic violence advocate Mariana Cole-Rivera took to Facebook to complain that one of her co-workers was unfairly accusing fellow employees of laziness. Several other staffers at Hispanics United of Buffalo chimed in to say they worked plenty hard already. Soon after Cole-Rivera and her co-workers returned to work, HUB fired five of them, arguing that their off-the-clock comments had violated the nonprofit’s anti-harassment policy.” The NLRB decision ruled against HUB’s use of the bullying policy for the terminations: