May 12, 2010. Albany, NY: New York’s State Senate stepped up the national fight against bully bosses with the passage of S1823B. If enacted, the bill would establish a private cause of action for victims of abusive work environments. But, targets of this madness still won’t find relief until the NY Assembly passes their own version, A5414B, and the Governor signs off. Not an easy task.
The Labor Committee on the Assembly side of the State Capitol has been holding up their “same as” version for some time. And, what Governor Paterson will ultimately do is up in the air. This time last year, Paterson vetoed a bill with a much less immediate impact and an intention to explore the best way to legislate hostile work environments. Had he put his pen on the dotted line the study results would be in place right about now to help guide lawmakers toward a legal solution.
Perhaps its time the mainstream media starts looking at what’s actually in this pending legislation. Advocates for the law, written by the Vice President of the non-profit Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), often say that the Healthy Workplace Bill is business friendly. With all due respect to the WBI for the groundbreaking work they began a decade ago, their website campaign woos legislators and opts to appease critics by calling their own bill “such a gentle one” and saying that “Its true purpose is to reward good employers to escape from liability if they take proactive steps to prevent an abusive work environment.” [see snapshot below]
This policy protection for employers can be put in place, for a fee, by consultants like the WBI’s for-profit arm, The Work Doctor. In April, USA TODAY reported that the Work Doctor was paid $45,000 for five days of consulting in a school district strapped by budget cuts. This fee is greater than the one year salary of many of the school district’s teachers. Presumably the policy put in place was based on one they had recently created in Sioux City sponsored by the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention.
It’s time to let new perspectives, answers, and voices into the debate. And, hopefully Assemblyman Steven Englebright, the main sponsor of A5414B, will amend their version to put real teeth into the bill and fight to protect the victims. Sexual Harassment and other discriminatory laws would never have had the impact they have without hefty, hefty penalties.
As many of you who read this blog on a regular basis know, I began filming lobbyists for this legislation three years ago. I’ve met many dedicated advocates, among them Mike Schlicht and Tom Witt of NY Healthy Workplace Advocates. We don’t always agree on the actual language of the law – but we do agree “There Oughta Be A Law.” Congrats to you both! (Note: Senator Morahan’s office were unavailable for comment)
May 12, 2010
History was made today in New York State with the passage of Bill S1823B “The Healthy Workplace Bill” that allows employees and employers to address the issue of workplace bullying. Sixty-two courageous state Senators have spoken that workplace bullying will no longer be tolerated in the workplace and employees who bully others will not be able to hide behind their employer and make them responsible for their own actions as is with protected status harassment. Likewise, employers who do not address this form of workplace violence will have to do so and while not all of them with be pleased with the legislation, proactive employers will now have a tool to rid themselves of bullies who undermine the bottom line, increase health care premiums, increase turnover and create workers comp and disability issues. On behalf of all employees, present and former who have experienced this form of workplace violence, I sincerely thank the courageous Senators of New York State for passing this legislation.
State Coordinator (Upstate)
New York Healthy Workplace Advocates
Snapshot of WBI-Legislative Campaign page quoted above