Is the Healthy Workplace Bill too business friendly?
“Do you think employers sat around and said ‘women are so mistreated we must have policies to protect women?’ No! When we had a law they listened to the law only because of the fear of litigation.” – Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI)
This year the WBI’s Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) is pending in several States and recently passed through the Illinois Senate. David Yamada, author of this anti-workplace bullying legislation, is encouraged but laments on his blog that the Illinois bill only addresses public employees.
But, perhaps those employees in the private sector praying for help should actually give a sigh of relief that there’s still time to modify the HWB.
The current versions of the HWB alive in NY [5414B] and several other states which do address the private sector include a cap that could severely limit monetary awards to $25,000. If you’re employed by a Small Business that price sticker may have an impact on how your boss treats you in the future but what about corporations who pay their abrasive ‘rainmakers’ in the 6 or 7 figures because they bring in big accounts? $25,000 is just a small cost for doing business as usual. In today’s tough economic times there’s a long line of worker bees waiting desperately for a job who can quickly replace you. And, let’s be honest, I know that when I spoke to an attorney while dealing with my own egregious situation I was informed that just to get the ball rolling I should expect to have on hand close to $15,000.
Put the “fear” back into the legislation
Currently, if you’ve been severely and repeatedly emotionally abused at the hands of a sadistic abusive boss you may well be able to sue for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress [IIED]. You need to be able to prove that behavior was outrageous and intentional aka malice. And, you need to be able to document the severity of the emotional distress. It costs BIG $$$ and takes years. But, the impact of winning a large lawsuit reverberates.
In 2008 the Indiana Supreme Court recognized Workplace Bullying and found for the plaintiff with an award of $325,000. Soon after as a direct result of this lawsuit, the Joint Commission announced a new regulation (LD.03.01.01) for hospitals all over the country (more after the jump) :
“intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors,(1,2,3) contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes,(1,4,5) increase the cost of care,(4,5) and cause qualified clinicians, administrators and managers to seek new positions in more professional environments. (1,6) Safety and quality of patient care is dependent on teamwork, communication, and a collaborative work environment. To assure quality and to promote a culture of safety, health care organizations must address the problem of behaviors that threaten the performance of the health care team.”
New York’s Senate is about to vote on legislation that includes the 25K Cap
I know first hand what it’s like to beg upper management to uphold their so-called zero tolerance policy on that sadistic bully you are working for. I know what it’s like to spend countless work hours left crumpled after being the victim of screaming irrational tirades. Hiding under your desk crying or throwing up in the rest room and all too aware that there’s no way out because new jobs are scarce. I know what it is to open statements from your health insurance company — like that $10,000+ for failed EKGs and stress tests & heart cath surgery to find out whether those chest pains are signaling that you’re on the verge of a heart attack or the victim of extreme stress. I know what it is to be told you can’t transfer and have to continue working for that abrasive manager because they bring in powerful donors and it would be too humiliating for the organization if one more person left in less than 3 years. And finally, I know what it is to muster the courage (and the $) to sit in front of an attorney and bare your soul about the debilitating humiliations of working for a bully only to find out that without specific legislation in place your recourse is limited.
That’s why I decided to make a film highlighting the victims who are lobbying for a law to make a real change. However, I feel extremely conflicted about the inclusion of this cap and its implications which is why I’ve chosen to open up this discussion. This law should be crafted to protect employees not give up precious negotiating power to employers who have strong lobbyists in the form of the Chambers of Commerce etal to do that for them. Too many lawsuits regarding Sexual Harassment or the other protected classes fall through the cracks and Anti-Bullying legislation could insure that all harassed workers are protected. If you think giveaways to Business Lobbyists will make them come around watch the video below after the jump.
The HWB has 4 basic steps:
#1 is working within the organization to correct the situation. This would hopefully protect you against retaliation for speaking out while you try to figure out if you’re the victim of bad management or actionable ‘bullying.’
#2 You exhaust your financial resources trying to recoup $25K for emotional distress while at your job. Would the Joint Commission have really taken such a public stance if the penalty had been a quiet $25K exchange in a lawyers office?
#3 If you resign or are fired and have any money left over from trying to win Step #2, you can now sue your employer for your bully’s Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and hostile work environment without a cap. You’re also eligible for the back pay, front pay and other costs. The standards are high and similar to the Sexual Harassment legislation that Yamada based this legislation on.
#4 You can sue the bully him/herself. While this may give some personal satisfaction, if the pockets aren’t deep enough don’t expect your lawyer to be on contingency $$$$$
Watch What Buisiness Lobbyists Have to Say: