Calling all Unions – a golden opportunity to stop workplace bullying

annapolis state house

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: Continue reading

MASSACHUSETTS: Using Anti-Harassment Laws For Workplace Bullying

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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:  Continue reading

What Workplace Bullying Advocates Can Learn From “Wage Theft” Legislation

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.05.02 AMUnenforced and inadequate laws allow a surprising number of employers to regularly steal billions of dollars from their workers by paying below the minimum wage and ignoring their responsibility to pay for overtime hours. Probably the most famous example is the $352 million settlement Walmart paid in 2008. Four years later the Department of Labor forced Walmart to cough up an additional $5 million for misrepresenting 4,500 workers as exempt from overtime pay.

It’s a cautionary tale for those of us who want to enact legislation to prevent workplace bullying. ProgressiveStates.org analyzed the hodge podge of  laws and regulations to protect workers from “Wage Theft” already in place and ranked these polices on a state by state basis. New York & Massachusetts ranked in the Top 2 – with the rest of the states receiving barely passing or failing grades. The analysis shows that: “until the odds of being penalized are increased and the consequences of violations become substantially greater than the financial rewards of wage theft, there will be little reason for dishonest employers to change their behavior. Combined with the meager capacity for agency-based enforcement documented in other reports, weak laws virtually guarantee impunity for unethical employers.” Trying to ‘prod’ employers into doing the right thing by providing a “carrot on a stick” clearly isn’t working and it can easily be surmised that the same will be true if templates to protect workers from abusive work environments aren’t given real teeth. Typically minimum wage workers have few resources to hire and attorney so without an agency in place to enforce regulations employers continue to cut corners by shortchanging their employees. Continue reading

OSHA vs Hollywood

OSHA vs. Hollywood: Round 1 Guest Post from Compliance And Safety analyzes movie and T.V shows for OSHA violations with the help of a professional safety consultant.

Workplace safety does not receive much mainstream exposure. The vast majority of the U.S population does not know what OSHA is or what it regulates. We’re intent on changing that.  In this post, we’ll analyze the $250 million dollar 90′s blockbuster Enemy of the State and NBC’s The Office for OSHA violations.A special thanks goes out to contributing safety expert Anne Evans for her assistance in creating this post.(1998) Enemy Of The State, Supply Room Scene. CLIP ENDS AT 03:20This clip is from the late 90′s blockbuster ‘Enemy of the State’. What’s especially interesting about this clip is that the management had the audacity to place a ‘Safety First’ poster in the same room as a handful of critical OSHA violations. Sadly this type of gross negligence coupled with minimal effort to create the appearance of compliance (such as a ‘Safety First’ sign) is far too common in actual workplaces. In this case, Hollywood’s depiction of workplace safety is not so different than reality. Continue reading

Revealing The Secrets Of Mental Illness At Work

…more than one in four American adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and one in seventeen has a serious disorder such as schizophrenia orbipolar disorder, but chances are co-workers or managers don’t know who they are… [Psychology Today]

Skyworks Charitable Foundation uses documentary film to bring this issue forward in their social change intiative, Working Life. The online web videos provide heartwarming and insightful portraits of “four adults who grew up in families struggling with mental health difficulties. They reflect on some of the challenges facing their parents, both as parents and as breadwinners, and how their experiences shaped their own goals and expectations.” Continue reading

Must Read Book About Workplace Bullying Legislation

Legislators, journalists, advocates and targets will find this book by Patricia G. Barnes a much needed resource with tons of information about workplace bullying and a special focus on current and possible legislation.  Barnes offers honest critique of the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill and brings a fresh perspective and much needed voice to this effort.  You can, like me,  send a “gift” copy to your state legislator to use as a reference that outlines a variety of approaches to prevent bullying. Barnes is an appellate and trial court judge, a licensed attorney and an author of legal books, magazine articles and newspaper op-ed columns. She became interested in workplace abuse and bullying issues Continue reading