U.S. Secretary of Labor 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 the U.S. Secretary of Labor  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.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement

It is ironic that the first flicker of optimism in recent months should stem from a rag-tag  protest group called Occupy Wall Street in New York City.

For years, American workers have seen factories shuttered and jobs exported overseas, experienced high and chronic unemployment, have been overworked and underpaid amid blatant and reprehensible corporate greed.

In the small world of workplace anti-bully advocates, state-by-state efforts to pass what can charitably be called anemic legislation to protect workers from this insidious form of abuse has failed to produce a  single victory in eight years. This despite the fact that most industrialized countries recognized the problem years ago and took steps to combat it.

Meanwhile, Congress appears to be in a state of paralysis, held hostage by a small group of right-wing legislators who prefer cuts in programs vital to the well-being of vulnerable children and the elderly to the repeal of tax cuts that already have transferred much of America’s wealth to the wealthiest one percent of our population.

About three weeks ago, a small group of protesters set up an encampment in New York’s Financial District to decry home foreclosures, high unemployment and the 2008 bailouts, as well as excessive force and unfair treatment of minorities, including Muslims. Their message has resonated.

On Wednesday, some of New York City’s most powerful unions were set to march from City Hall to the protest movement’s base at a park in lower Manhattan. They were to be joined by students at major public universities in New York City, where tuition is rising.

Meanwhile, similar “occupation” movements are springing up in cities around the country. On Tuesday, the Greater Boston Labor Council, representing 154 unions with 90,000 workers, supported the Occupy Boston encampment for shining “a spotlight on the imbalance of power in our nation and the role that Wall Street has played in devastating our economy.”

Nothing tangible has changed for American workers but at the same time it feels like something intangible is changing.

It is no longer just a few small voices in the wilderness who are demanding positive change on behalf of most Americans.

Workplace Bullying Affects Family Relationships

There’s an old saying: When mom is unhappy; everyone is unhappy!  (Presumably the same goes  for Dad.)

A study by a Baylor University researcher has found that workplace incivility can be so intense that, at the end of the day, the target brings it home, where it impacts the well-being of the worker’s family and partner.

The study’s author, Merideth J. Ferguson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, says:   “Employees who experience such incivility at work bring home the stress, negative emotion and perceived ostracism that results from those experiences, which then affects more than their family life – it also creates problems for the partner’s life at work.”

Since the employee is stressed and distracted, the partner is likely to pick up more of the family responsibilities, and those demands may interfere with the partner’s work life. The study also found that such stress also significantly affected the worker’s and the partner’s marital satisfaction.

“This research underlines the importance of stopping incivility before it starts so that the ripple effect of incivility does not impact the employee’s family and potentially inflict further damage beyond the workplace where the incivility took place and cross over into the workplace of the partner,” said Ferguson.

The study included 190 full-time workers, who all had co-workers and had an employed partner, who agreed to complete an online survey.  After completing the survey, workers were asked to have their partners complete a separate survey.  Approximately 57 percent of the employee sample was male with an average age of 36, while 43 percent of the partner sample was male with an average age of 35. Of these couples, 75 percent had children living with them.

“Unlike the study of incivility’s effects at work, the study of its impact on the family is in its infancy. However, these findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families,” Ferguson said.

“One approach to prevent this stress might be to encourage workers to seek support through their organization’s employee assistance program or other resources such as counseling or stress management so that tactics or mechanisms for buffering the effect of incivility’s stress on the family can be identified,” she said.

Ferguson advises workers who are experiencing “chronic rudeness” to get help with stress management techniques. “Rudeness and instability can result in things like anxiety and depression, so we suggest people get in touch with a counselor,” she said. “If it starts impacting their physical and mental health, they should seek a job elsewhere.”

The study results were announced in an August 16, 2011 press release by Baylor, which is based in Waco, TX.

Maybe someone should fire his ass?

Workplace bullying is not always confined to the office in the age of technology.

A worker for the state of Nevada believes she was the victim of bullying by a supervisor writing on his Facebook page because she took time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to the Las Vegas Sun:

Steven Zuelke, a unit manager for the state’s unemployment benefits anti-fraud unit, used his personal Facebook page to complain about an unidentified employee he thinks uses too much sick time.

 “Why is it that for some people FMLA stands for Family Medical Leave Act and for others, it should stand for Fire My Lazy Ass?” Zuelke wrote on his Facebook page last month, hours after one of his employees left work early because she said she was sick.

Zuelke engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth with a group of his Facebook friends — including another state staffer who works in the same division — in which he initially mocks his employee and then rants about how difficult it is for the state bureaucracy to deal with problem workers.

The rant was specific enough that one of the two employees Zuelke has had on FMLA status thinks Zuelke was talking about her.

“I had to read it a few times because I was shocked and confused,” said Sherry Truell, a claims examiner who works in Zuelke’s unit and has used FMLA time extensively this year. “I was being referred to as lazy, an anchor, that other people have to do my work, stuff that related to my personal business … I was extremely embarrassed. My co-workers can see this information.”

 Truell said she used FMLA heavily last month because of what she described as a stress-related medical condition and because her son needed surgery. She added that she usually takes two or three days off a month.

Truell has sought the help of her union representative to address the issue and is considering filing a grievance.

“He’s discussing his employees, his work environment, he has friended multiple other employees in the same office. … There are so many problems with this,” said Priscilla Maloney, labor representative for Truell’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local.

Instead of offering an apology, Zuelke alludes to his First Amendment’s right to free speech.  He says he did not post during working hours or using a state computer.

Nevada doesn’t have a specific written policy on Facebook use, which could end up costing the state.

If an employee takes legally appropriate medical leave, it is not acceptable for a manager to penalize, demean or harass her. In fact, it is never acceptable for a supervisor to publicly demean and harass an employee.  Most importantly for his employer, however, Zuelke’s actions subject the state of Nevada to potential legal liability.

The FMLA provides that eligible employees of covered employers have a right to take job-protected leave for qualifying events without interference or restraint from their employers. The FMLA also gives employees the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, file a private lawsuit under the Act (or cause a complaint or lawsuit to be filed), and to testify or cooperate in other ways with an investigation or lawsuit without being fired or discriminated against in any other manner.

If  Zuelke”s  subordinate at the Nevada Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Department actually did take FMLA time, the state may find itself defending a retaliation lawsuit. Also, Zuelke inferred that an employee, who apparently was easily identifiable, engaged in fraudulent behavior by taking sick leave under the FMLA when she was not sick. He published his remarks on a Facebook page for all the world to see.   Hello … defamation, slander, libel.

Research shows that between a quarter and  third of workers are the victims of health endangering bullying, most by a supervisor.  This problem costs American employers billions every year in unnecessary turnover, absenteeism, higher health care costs, and needless litigation.

Discriminating Against the Unemployed

Since this blog was written, President Barack Obama in September 2011 sent a new bill to Congress that incorporates a provision that employers may not refuse to hire persons on the basis of their being unemployed. 

Fair Employment Act of 2011

July 14, 2011 – Kudos to U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who have  introduced legislation that would block employers from discriminating against out-of-work applicants.

The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, H.R. 2501, would keep both employers and recruiters from refusing to consider unemployed workers for available positions, and  from including language in any job postings indicating that the unemployed should not apply, the representatives said in a statement.

It is morally reprehensible that employers discriminate against unemployed people.  Workers may have good reason to quit their jobs or they can be fired through no fault of their own.    At present there is no law that specifically addresses workplace bullying, which overwhelming research shows causes the target to suffer potentially serious physical and psychological damage.

A 2007 poll by Zogby International on behalf of the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 64 percent of targets of workplace bullying quit or are fired.  When employers are notified of bullying, most (62%)  do nothing or make matters worse. Why? The vast majority of bullies are bosses (72%) who enjoy support from executive sponsors, peers and human resources.

Specifically, the proposed law would make it illegal for employers and employment agencies to do things like:

  •  consider unemployment status and history in making hiring decisions;
  • publish in job posting that unemployed workers can not apply; and
  • block unemployed people from accessing information about job openings.

The only time it would be lawful for an employer to consider the unemployment status or history of applicant is “where an individual’s employment in a similar or related job for a period of time reasonably proximate to the hiring of such individual is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to successful performance of the job that is being filled.”

PGB

The Healthy Workplace Bill is Anemic

The proposed Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) is touted as model legislation to combat workplace bullying in the United States but is it as healthy as it should be for American workers?

No, says an international expert writing in a special issue of Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal entitled, The Law of Workplace Bullying: An International Overview, Volume 32, Number 1, Fall 2010.

“It is of note that efforts to have legislation adopted in the Unites States seem to raise the bar far higher than would be acceptable in any of the other countries studied here,” says Professor Katherine Lippel, the editor of the issue and Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law, University of Ottawa, Canada,

The HWB was drafted by Professor David Yamada of Suffolk University, Boston, MA,  founder of the New Workplace Institute, and is supported by the Workplace Bullying Institute founded by Gary and Ruth Namie.

Ms. Lippel said the HWB contains restrictive requirements not found in other such laws around the world. Specifically, she cites its requirement that the Plaintiff show malicious intent to bully and provide evidence that he or she suffered tangible psychological or physical harm.

Here’s what Ms. Lippel has to say about the proposed requirement of proof of malicious intent:

“The requirement of malicious intention is of particular concern, and is not a requirement in the other legislation studied in this issue … Most legislation does not require evidence of the intention of the perpetrator of harassment (see for instance the interpretation and application of the legislation in France and Québec, and the Code of practice in Spain), and while malicious intent may lead to an increased award in Germany, evidence of intent is not required in the application of remedies provided for either in contract or tort liability contexts.”

It should also be noted that proof of malice is not a requirement for “hostile workplace” claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects victims who are discriminated on the basis of race, sex, national original, etc.  They need prove malice only if they are seeking the additional remedy of punitive damages.

Here’s what Ms. Lippel has to say about the proposed requirement of proof of tangible harm:

“Similarly, the proposed Healthy Worker Bill imposes an evidentiary requirement that has been critiqued as being “an over-high standard of severity,”…  requiring evidence of tangible harm to the plaintiff … It is understandable that the difficult context applicable in the United States with regard to rights of workers may favor a more restrictive legislative approach for purposes of political expediency, yet even some authors from the United States have expressed concern with the restrictive conditions proposed in the Healthy Workplace Bill.”

It should also be noted here that proving tangible  psychological or physical harm is not required by federal discrimination laws for other victims of a hostile workplace environment.  In fact, the requirement was expressly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1993 sexual harassment case.  In Harris v. Forklift Systems., the U. S. Supreme Court said the protection of federal law comes into play before the harassing conduct leads to a nervous breakdown.  (See Harris v. Forklift Sys., 510 U.S. 17 (1993))

The Supreme Court also said:  “Certainly Title VII bars conduct that would seriously affect a reasonable person’s psychological well-being, but the statute is not limited to such conduct. So long as the environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive … there is no need for it also to be psychologically injurious.”

Furthermore, the requirement to prove psychological harm would be a burden for targets who don’t have health care coverage,  the funds to see a therapist or the cultural disposition to seek psychiatric care. According to the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 19.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured in 2007.

Overwhelming research shows that bullying causes  stress that may contribute to physical harm that only becomes apparent many years later – such as heart disease.  Shouldn’t this be taken into account?

Ms. Lippel prefaces her remarks with the admonition that, “The actual content of the legislation on workplace bullying, if there is to be legislation, requires reflection.”

There is one other striking problem with the HWB that is not discussed in the special issue.  The HWB places a seemingly arbitrary cap on damages for targets of bullying who did not experience an adverse employment action, such as demotion or dismissal. The cap on emotional distress damages is $25,000 and targets are prohibited from seeking punitive damages. This cap is so low that it is unlikely that the HWB would serve as a deterrent to employers.  And, in a worst case scenario, the family of target driven to suicide by bullying would be able recover barely enough to pay for a decent funeral – all because the target was not demoted or fired. In short, the only damages available to a target of workplace bullying in this situation would be compensatory, i.e. the payment of medical bills.

Namie and Yamada have expressed concern about burdening the court system with cases that rest on “hurt feelings” rather than true bullying. But they fail to explain why this concern wouldn’t apply equally to any other lawsuit involving a hostile work claim, including sexual harassment or race discrimination lawsuits.  Why should targets of workplace bullying be singled out?

The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has said that Title VII doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious.  Unwelcome conduct becomes illegal when it is so severe and pervasive that it interferes with the target’s work performance or creates a work atmosphere that is offensive or abusive. (Meritor Sav. Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986)).

The Journal is a publication of the University of Illinois College of Law and The International Society for Labor Law and Social Security. The special issue may be available for perusal at your local law library. It can be found online at Lexis/Nexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline. It is available for purchase ($10) at the journal’s web site: http://www.law.uiuc.edu/publications/cll&pj/contact.html

– by Patricia Barnes

*** Note: This article was updated on 2/7/12


Impact of Job Stress on Health

 There is  OVERWHELMING research that workplace bullying can be devastating to one’s health, both emotional and physical. PGB
 

Job Stress and Health

Excerpt from a publication of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace:

Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which responds by preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles. This response (sometimes called the fight or flight response) is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations. The response is preprogrammed biologically. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.

In the past 20 years, many studies have looked at the relationship between job stress and a variety of ailments. Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends are examples of stress-related problems that are quick to develop and are commonly seen in these studies. These early signs of job stress are usually easy to recognize. But the effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress. Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.

Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

_______________________________________

How does job stress contribute to cardiovascular disease, and what can be done to intervene?

 

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of death in the United States.

Considerable evidence has demonstrated that occupational stress contributes to CVD morbidity and mortality. It is estimated that up to 23 percent of heart disease related deaths per year could be prevented if the levels of job strain in the most stressful occupations were reduced to average levels seen in other occupations …

Job stress results from the interaction of the worker and the working conditions. Specific workplace features of concern include highly repetitive, monotonous tasks, excessive job demands and time pressure, racial or sexual discrimination; management style, interpersonal relationships, work roles, job insecurity, and environmental exposures such as constant background noise, or heat. One very widely used definition of stressful work is the combination of high demands with little or no leeway for decision-making about the job (also referred to as “high demand/low control” or “job strain”). A high demand with insufficient rewards (known as
“effort/reward imbalance”) has also been highlighted as problematic.

Evidence supporting the multiple mechanisms by which job stress contributes to cardiovascular diseases (and other chronic health conditions) comes from a vast body of international scientific literature that includes epidemiologic studies, patho-physiological studies of animals and humans, and behavioral studies. Stressful conditions on the job can result in at least three main mechanisms or pathways:

1. Changes in physiological processes that increase the risk for CVD—high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened immune response, high cortisol, and changes in appetite and digestive patterns.

2. Changes in behavior that increase the risk for CVD—low physical activity levels, excessive coffee consumption, smoking, poor dietary habits.

3. Development of mental health conditions (anxiety and depression) that independently increases the risk for a range of chronic health conditions, including CVD (obesity, stroke, atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, etc.).

… evidence from intervention research shows clear benefits for a “systems” approach that emphasizes primary prevention, and that combines approaches for improving working conditions with approaches for managing occupational stress-related illnesses.  Examples of primary prevention approaches include clarifying worker roles, increasing worker decision making opportunities, improving worker management communication, ensuring a respectful work environment, and increasing social interaction between workers. Examples of managing occupational stress-related illness include training on stress management techniques, providing space for exercise and medication, and providing access to employee assistance programs …

Authors: Suzanne Nobrega, M.S., and Manuel Cifuentes, M.D, Sc.D., University of MA Lowell

___________________________________________

STUDY: BAD MANAGERS POTENTIALLY LETHAL

In a groundbreaking 2008 study, Swedish researchers, led by Anna Nyberg at the Stress Institute in Stockholm, studied more than 3,100 men over a 10 year period in typical work settings. The researchers reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative were 60 percent more likely to suffered a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition. Employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40 percent less likely to suffer heart problems.

Women Too Nice to Get Corner Office?

Or maybe we should examine the workplace and ask ourselves why it’s detrimental to one’s career to show respect, fair play and teamsmanship? PGB

Exhibit A: Women told not to be too nice

The Wall Street Journal writes about advice that Citigroup provided to women who wanted to succeed in their careers.  Laminated cards, distributed to some female Citigroup employees,  list some things women do to sabotage their careers.  According to the cards, women tend to:

1. Speak too softly and aren’t heard

2. Groom in public, which “deemphasizes…capability.”

3. Sit too demurely, rather than leaning forward at the table in meetings.

4. Speak last in meetings. Early speakers are seen as more assertive and authoritative.

5. Ask permission, while men inform.

6.  Apologize too much for every little thing.

7.  Smile too often, which can dilute a message.

8. Play too fair.

9. Operate behind the scenes, which enables competitors to take credit for one’s work.

10. Offer a limp handshake.

The WSJ took the position that took “the view that these suggestions were helpful ways for women to do well in finance. ”

The list emanated from a book, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers,”  by Dr. Lois P. Frankel.

The WSJ quotes her stating the list was taken out of context BUT:

“The women who say they don’t have to do these things are naïve,” Frankel said. “There are different rules for men and women in the workplace. To be successful, you have to figure out the boundaries on the playing field and figure out where to play your game on the edge. All games are won at the edge.”

U of Virigina clears itself of fault in alleged bullycide

Excerpts from an article by The Chronicle of Higher Education about the suicide of  Kevin Morrissey (pictured below), the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, who was allegedly bullied by his boss.  See: http://chronicle.com/article/UVa-Audit-Finds-Questionable/125034/ for the full article.

October 20, 2010

But Finds ‘Questionable’ Management by  Editor

By Robin Wilson

An audit of The Virginia Quarterly Review released on Wednesday by the University of Virginia says that Ted Genoways, the journal’s editor, had “questionable” managerial skills and spent magazine money without approval to publish a book of his own poetry. But the audit report stops short of saying that Mr. Genoways was guilty of workplace bullying, which some journal staff members say contributed to the suicide of the journal’s managing editor, Kevin Morrissey.

The internal investigation, which was commissioned in August by the university’s new president, Teresa A. Sullivan, also found that while UVA should streamline its procedures for dealing with employee complaints, the university took “appropriate actions” in dealing with complaints from journal’s staff about  Genoways. “Because some individuals were not aware of all that was going on,” says the eight-page report, “they incorrectly concluded that things were not being done.”

A spokeswoman said the university is “committed to publishing VQR,” although she said the university will make several changes in the way the journal is managed.
The report does not specifically mention accusations of workplace bullying made against  Genoways by some staff members, and subsequently by  Morrissey’s sister, Maria Morrissey, but it does say that such behavior can be hard to discern. “It is sometimes difficult to define where the line gets crossed between a tough manager and an unreasonable one,” says the report, which points out that “no laws exist” banning workplace bullying, as they do banning sexual harassment.

The report says that, by his own admission,  Genoways’s “capacity to supervise and lead his staff well and to operate his department in accordance with university policies is questionable.” It recommends that the university establish a panel “to strengthen the institution’s policies and structure with regards to acceptable workplace conduct,” something the university has agreed to do.

Genoways came to Virginia as editor of VQR in 2003 and brought Morrissey in as his deputy. By all accounts, the two were quite close until about a year ago, when  Genoways hired Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, a young UVA graduate and donor, to help raise money for the magazine. Morrissey, who had suffered from serious depression for which he had taken medication,  reportedly felt he was being pushed aside.  In the months before Morrissey took his life, people close to the magazine say that Genoways barely communicated with Morrissey and other members of the journal’s small staff,  frequently working from home instead of from the VQR offices. In a letter that Genoways sent to contributors and others after  Morrissey’s death, he said it was Morrissey who had been distancing himself—and he blamed the behavior on  Morrissey’s depression.

Last July, after becoming angry about an exchange that Morrissey and another staff member had with Levinson-LaBrosse,  Genoways banished  Morrissey to work from home.  Morrissey, worried that he might lose his job, made 17 calls to the university’s human-resources department, the president’s office, and university officials responsible for employee assistance and faculty-staff relations, said his sister. Other staff members also complained to university officials about Genoways and told UVA administrators that they worried that Morrissey was so distraught he might kill himself.

In late July, Morrissey shot himself in the head, leaving a note that said: “I just couldn’t bear it anymore.”

Although the report did not find fault with the university itself, it said the institution’s way of dealing with complaints from employees should be re-evaluated. Under the management response, President Sullivan wrote that a new structure will be established for complaints to be taken, registered, and tracked—and for them to be investigated and have the findings reported.

Critics argue that UVA might have prevented the alleged bullycide of Morrissey by addressing the obvious dysfunction of the journal operations.

Mediation to Halt Workplace Bullying?

There is a lack of research on whether mediation works in cases of workplace bullying.  Many experts, myself included, urge caution. Workplace bullying is not like workplace conflict. It is a form of abuse (usually by a supervisor)  that takes place over time, and causes the target to suffer potentially serious  injury to his or her mental and physical health. A level playing field does not exist in bullying situations, just as it does not exist in domestic violence scenarios (where mediation is disfavored). Mediation is premised on the theory that an objective, neutral third party can help two parties of equal standing achieve a fair and just solution.  Here are some excerpts from an article published on June 8, 2010 by the Chronicle of Higher Education at: http://chronicle.com/article/Workplace-Mediators-Seek-a/65815/

Workplace Mediators Seek a Role in Taming Faculty Bullies

By Peter Schmidt

College faculty members who are bullied or abused by coworkers often feel they must either suffer through it or quit. Soon, however, colleges may be pressed to give them a third option: requesting the intervention of a mediator or arbitrator to try to turn their workplace situation around.

What is unclear is whether such interventions will make life more tolerable for bullies’ victims or leave them feeling more beat up than they were before.

Colleges already frequently use various forms of third-party intervention, broadly known as alternative dispute resolution, to try to keep complaints of unlawful discrimination from turning into costly legal battles. Noting that such disputes often involve allegations of bullying or other forms for workplace abuse, two prominent organizations that provide alternative dispute resolution plan in the coming months to undertake a national campaign to urge colleges to use that same approach in handling complaints of mistreatment that do not necessarily violate any civil-rights laws.

The effort is being led by the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit provider of alternative dispute resolution based in New York, and by the ADR Consortium, which consists of companies and individuals that offer such services. Also involved is the Institute of Human Resources and Industrial Relations at Loyola University Chicago, which plans to do research on the effectiveness of the approach.

In a paper scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors, Lamont E. Stallworth, a professor of human resources and employment relations at the Loyola institute and a founder of the ADR Consortium, and Myrna C. Adams, an organizational consultant who formerly served as Duke University’s vice president for institutional equity, argue that alternative dispute resolution offers an “ethical, professional, and cost-effective” way to deal with bullying and other forms of workplace incivility.

Mr. Stallworth and Ms. Adams acknowledge, however, that they cannot point to any research showing alternative dispute resolution to be an effective means of dealing with bullying. And many experts on bullying argue that what research actually shows is that mediation by some third party is an ineffective means of dealing with bullying, and may even leave the victims worse off.

“There is great consensus about the futility of [alternative dispute resolution] to work with bullying,” Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, said in an e-mail message.

In a September 2009 article in Consulting Psychology Journal, Mr. Namie and Ruth Namie, his wife and partner in running the Workplace Bullying Institute, wrote, “Traditional conflict mediation ignores the targeted worker’s need for justice and acknowledgment of the harm” and “focuses only on current and future circumstances, ignoring the past.”

“If there is a power imbalance between target and bully, as there often is, mediation can harm the target,” they said.

…  In a paper scheduled to be presented on Thursday, three researchers from Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania, will discuss the results of a survey that asked faculty members in economics and business about bullying behavior.  .. The most common type of bullying behavior faculty members engage in, the Wilkes researchers found, is discounting another person’s accomplishments, followed by turning other people against their victim, or subjecting their victim to public criticism or constant scrutiny.

… A key element of the campaign planned by the American Arbitration Association and the ADR Consortium is persuading colleges to adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of civility. That way, although alternative dispute resolution would not be used unless both sides agreed to it, the alleged perpetrator would have an incentive to enter into the resolution process, to avoid facing disciplinary action.

Christine L. Newhall, senior vice president of the American Arbitration Association, said in an interview on Tuesday that many types of dispute resolution could be used in such situations, including fact-finding, binding or nonbinding arbitration, or mediation in which a facilitator tries to bring together both sides. She is confident that well-trained providers of such services can resolve many bullying-related conflicts in academe, just as they settle many other workplace disputes.

“Sometimes the bully does not even know they are a bully,” Ms. Newhall said.

Mr. Stallworth is playing a central role in the effort as both a faculty member at the Loyola institute and program director of the ADR Consortium, which he established in 1995. A veteran user of alternative dispute resolution to settle complaints of illegal discrimination, he says he became interested in research on workplace bullying several years ago and has been considering how to apply the expertise of those like him to such conflicts.