New Jersey – Kevin M. Costello, a New Jersey attorney, said he turns away more than 2,000 people a year who are seeking his help to combat workplace bullying.
“These are people who have panic attacks. Their hair is falling out. They are throwing up blood … They ask, ‘Why can’t you help me?’ ‘Why isn’t there a law?” said Costello, who spoke at the first conference of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition at Rutgers School of Law earlier this month. “I can’t stand saying ‘no’ to that many people,” said Costello.
Costello is assisting New Jersey State Sen. Linda Greenstein, assistant majority leader of the NJ Senate, in crafting a proposed state law to address workplace bullying.
Sen. Greenstein said the bill will help targets who are under “extreme stress. What we’re looking for here is not your everyday not-so-pleasant workplace … We’re looking for very serious situations.”
Costello, who specializes in employment rights, said there are no viable options at present for victims of workplace bullying, especially those who do not fall within a protected class under state or federal anti-discrimination laws (i.e., race, sex, religion, color, national origin).
Critics of workplace bullying legislation often argue that such legislation will add to the cost of doing business in New Jersey, make the state less competitive and ultimately would harm the state’s economy. Costello said the same concerns were raised in the past and were unfounded.
“Why should we do something about child labor? The economy would suffer if we didn’t hire children … Why should we pay women the same amount as men? They have husbands … What do you mean Occupational Safety and Health Act? I want to make sure the economy doesn’t suffer,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a bill whose time has come.”
More than 100 attorneys, union officials, policy makers and targets of workplace bullying attended the April 4 conference of the NWBC, the first national organization formed to address the problem of workplace bullying.
Meanwhile, 27 percent of U.S. workers are either experiencing abusive conduct at work or did so in the past, and 21 percent have witnessed it, according to a 2014 national survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute. The survey also found that almost three-quarters of employers have done nothing to curb workplace bullying. An estimated 93 percent of respondents in a national survey said they support enactment of legislation to protect employees from abusive conduct at work.
* Disclaimer: I am a co-founder and member of the NWBC.