Workplace Relation’s Minister Bill Shorten was interviewed on ABC TV about the results of Australia’s exhaustive parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying Calling it a scourge that runs into billions of dollars and more importantly takes a human toll, Shorten called for “zero tolerance.” An article in News.com.au says the inquiries report, “Workplace Bullying: We Just Want It To Stop,” recommends “strengthening existing laws and clearly definingwhat workplace bullying is.” America, are you listening?
Other industrialized countries have enacted workplace anti-bullying protections – some decades ago. Australia now takes the lead as it conducts an impressive inquiry into workplace bullying. Early testimony released by Australia says national legislation requiring employers to implement strong, clear policies is needed.
U.S. Falls Farther Behind
The following text is from the organization lobbying State by State for passage of their anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill:
…it doesn’t mandate the state to do anything and it has no fiscal impact, nor does it make employers do anything. If they want to be abusive then they operate under the threat of litigation. Which should scare them but truth be told it doesn’t scare them too much…
Australia is seeing a huge spike in workplace bullying claims but the majority fall short of qualifying.
Ian Forsyth of WorkSafe says this is due to “greater awareness about bullying and, in particular, to the case of 19-year-old waitress Brodie Panlock, who committed suicide in 2006 after being relentlessly bullied by four colleagues at a Hawthorn cafe.” The positive outcome is that legislation was enacted as a result of media pressure. The downside is that despite all of the news coverage important information about workplace bullying was not absorbed by the public.
”I think what we are seeing is that the term bullying is being used quite loosely in the community now in many instances to describe something that has ‘gone against me’ or ‘that I haven’t liked’ or something that ‘I haven’t wanted to do’,” says Mr Forsyth.
”As a result, we are seeing a mismatch between what is being labelled bullying and what would really constitute bullying under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
”We’re certainly not saying that these people aren’t suffering from some form of ill treatment or some form of injustice or that they’re not genuinely feeling that they’ve been disadvantaged or put under pressure. But in the vast majority of incidents these types of behaviours which they might describe as bullying are not going to meet the criteria for us to investigate or prosecute.” [Sydney Morning Herald read more..]
The article goes on to say that many of the claims already fall under discrimination and other legislation currently in place. Sadly the high pressure media attention here in the U.S. may create a similar situation. Countless articles about workplace bullying here in the U.S. all too often relate unscientific survey numbers and tell victims’ horrific stories without the acknowledgment that many can already addressed under discrimination or physical harassment legislation already in place. Or, that it may be possible to file a lawsuit as an IIED claim. This is great for lobbyists wishing to pass a bill but questionable when it comes to what is ethically best for everyone who will be impacted. And, that would all of us, including advocates like myself, who work or own businesses.
It’s time for each of us to speak up and add our own concerns to the dialog. Journalists reporting on pending legislation in the U.S. all too often rely on a single solution with little or no critique. The problem with that type of approach is that it subverts the democratic process and serves narrowly focused interests as opposed to addressing all of our concerns. Crafting strong laws is something that legislators are charged to do and remains each of our right as citizens. Why hand over concessions in the very first draft of a bill?
Personally, I am interested in collaborating with current advocates across America (many of whom I know and have developed relationships with) so as to strengthen pending legislation [see text of sample bill ] not ditch it — since that is the only way I personally feel comfortable supporting it. Time will tell if that is something they are open to or not but in the meantime please share your thoughts, arguments and ideas here or email them to OurBullyPulpit@gmail.com
Which corner of the world googles the phrase “workplace bullying” the most? Well Australia and Ireland seem pretty matched in the number 1 & 2 spots — which given the disparity of size of the two countries says something for the plight of the Irish worker. New Zealand isn’t far behind. And, the UK, Canada and the US follow showing the least interest.
The top trending news stories about workplace bullying are related to health issues and legislation: