Workplace Bullying: Where’s The Beef?

I believe that if we’re honest with ourselves we can learn some hard lessons from Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week – an event that has been around for at least 4 years.  This year I decided to join in the effort and sponsor Take Action Screenings and offered free DVDs as part of our new initiative to use film to create change.  I’m delighted that the videos were used by advocates in a dozen states – and Australia – in a wide variety of venues.   But, I also recognize that this is a drop in the bucket for what needs to happen on a broader level.  Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week has been in place nearly half a decade.  And, while we applaud the efforts of others scattered around the country who worked hard to garner signed proclamations in 38 cities and one county, it’s important for us to heed this as a wake-up call.   As near as I can tell there are some 30,000+ cities in the US.  That’s not to denigrate any of the work others are doing – it’s merely meant to raise the bar.  Ironically, workplace bullying was more prominently covered by the media in the months leading up to the event.  So, the real question is: why hasn’t this effort really resonated beyond a small cadre of people into a true coalition?   Is it time for a new approach?  Here’s an article from WhenTheAbuserGoesToWork.com that asks just that. Patricia Barnes asks that we start to look in new directions.  In keeping with our mission to foster open and frank discussion, you don’t have to agree with her or me but you do owe it to yourself to become part of the discussion.  READ ON:

Labor Secretary Sleeping on the Job?

With America’s workplace anti-bully movement seemingly stuck in the trenches, perhaps it is time to follow the example of America’s neighbor to the North.

The Canadian province of Quebec amended its Labour Standards Act in 2002 to ban non-discriminatory workplace harassment and bullying. The law, which went into effect on June 1, 2004, also imposes a duty on employers to prevent and stop bullying.

According to one observer, the law was the result of a sustained campaign by Quebec unions, as well as by a non-profit advocacy and resource group for non-unionized workers, “Au bas l’echelle” (in English, “Rank and File”).

This effort resulted in the establishment in 1999 by then Minister of Labor, Diane Lemieux, of an Interdepartmental Committee on Psychological Harassment at Work. The committee in 2001 recommended the government take legislative steps to prohibit psychological harassment.

It is time for unions and workplace anti-bully advocates to call upon U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis to empanel a commission to study the problem of workplace bulling in the United States and recommend new legislation to Congress.

There is overwhelming research that the problem of workplace bullying is epidemic in the United States, affecting at least one in four workers, and that workplace bullying destroys lives and costs American employers billions every year.

Efforts began in the United States almost a decade ago to pass a so-called Healthy Workplace Bill on a state-by-state basis. Thus far, no state has adopted the bill, which is much weaker than Quebec’s legislation.

Meanwhile, the worsening economy has left more and more workers vulnerable to bullying. Not only are there fewer jobs, but the nature of the workforce is changing. More workers today are categorized as “independent contractors” who receive no benefits and low pay. These include home-workers, tele-workers, piece-workers.

Even if one state does step up and adopt a workplace anti-bully bill, it will take decades, if ever, before all of the states do.

*** See Debra L. Parkes, “Targeting Workplace Harassment in Quebec: On Exporting a New Legislative Agenda” (2004) 8 Empl. Rts. & Employ. Pol’y J. 423.

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