Exec’s Advice for Dealing with Bully Boss

This is part of a larger interview dated  July 17, 2010 on the New York Times web site with Dawn Lepore, chairwoman and chief executive of Drugstore.com and director of eBay and The New York Times Company. In this excerpt she discusses her experience working for a bully boss.

Q. Any bosses you had who were big influences?

A. I had a very bad boss early in my career. She was older than I was. She’d started in the financial services industry and she’d had a very hard time, so I think that probably shaped her as a leader. She was very smart but had terrible communication skills. She did not make people feel valued or comfortable or like they were supported at all. And I remember what that felt like. And I thought, I’m never going to do that to people.

Q. How long did you work for her?

A. Many years. I almost left twice.

Q. What’s your advice to people stuck working for a bad boss?

A. Life is about trade-offs. And you have to be conscious of the trade-off you’re making. I felt there were enough other positives in the environment and enough opportunity that I stuck it out. But, you know, I was unhappy. I had to kind of just take a deep breath and say, O.K., I know this is going to end and I’m willing to put up with this.

But you can’t be a victim. If you let yourself become a victim, that’s the kiss of death. So you’ve got to feel, O.K., I am choosing to do this, and when I decide I can no longer do it, then I will take action. So I will not let myself be so belittled that I think I can’t do anything. If it starts undermining your confidence, then you have to leave, because then that seeps into everything you do.

Massachusetts School Anti-Bullying Law

In April  2010 the Massachusetts’ state legislature unanimously passed what is called the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation with respect to schools,  Title 12, Chapter 71, Section 370. The law was precipitated by two cases of  Massachusetts’ youths committing suicide after allegedly being bullied. The legislation requires school employees to report and principals to investigate all instances of bullying. It should be noted that the Massachusetts’ law requires “repeated” incidents of bullying, which is not required in all bullying laws (ex. Quebec, Australia).  PGB

DEFINITION OF BULLYING  IN MASSACHUSETTS  SCHOOL ANTI-BULLYING LAW

“Bullying”, the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that:

(i)  causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property;

(ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property;

(iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim;

(iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or

(v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a  school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyberbullying.

Screamers, Demeanors, Schemers …

This gal knows her stuff! Some good ideas here. PGB

Oct. 28, 2010

Bosses Who Revel in Subordinate’s Misery

By TORY JOHNSON, ABC News Workplace Contributor

If you have a bully for a boss, you’re among the many people who probably dread going to work every day. The bullying can come in many forms, and from bosses who have their own unique style of bringing the pain. Some supervisors love to yell and scream, while others revel in humiliating their employees. Some workers also say that their bosses have schemed behind their backs to undermine their performance.

The Screamer: Sadly, at one point, we’ve all worked for or with screamers. Excessive yelling definitely makes for a toxic work environment. This type of boss doesn’t need a reason to yell. It’s just his or her style to scream at will.

Walk Away: Best solution is to stand up for yourself by walking away from a tirade. Bullies only scream at people they perceive to be weak — people who’ll easily take it. As a kid, you may have had to sit still and take it from a parent, but not so at work. Refuse to subject yourself by walking away, going to the restroom, grabbing a cup of water, stepping outside. This is especially helpful if you’re on the verge of getting emotional, which you don’t want to do. Above all, remember that when you do nothing, when you just sit there and take it, you’re giving the bully permission to continue. By doing nothing, you’re saying, “This is OK,” even though it’s not.

The Demeaner: The demeaner makes humiliating comments — “You’re such an idiot.” “Could you be any dumber?” “My kids could do this better and faster than you any day.” This person also uses humiliating gestures — rolling their eyes, using their hands dismissingly. This kind of toxic boss might also laugh at your ideas to belittle you. This kind of boss is particularly vexing because one of the most important characteristics that drives our excellence at work is our confidence in ourselves and our abilities. When we’re demeaned, we naturally second-guess ourselves and our worth. That means we don’t perform our best work. So it’s counterproductive for the boss to treat people this way on the job, even though he or she doesn’t see it. Confront Calmly: If you work for a small business, there isn’t an HR department to complain to about this, which means it’s up to you to tackle it directly with the boss. Sit down with the boss and tell him or her that you’re very proud of your skills and abilities and you’re especially proud of the results you generate in this role — and you know the company does good work. But you’re curious as to why someone who is so successful would resort to bully tactics when it accomplishes nothing. Make it clear that you don’t mind constructive criticism but when you do X, Y, Z, it’s not conducive to performing at your very best. If you go this route, make sure you share very specific examples. Instead of asking, “Why are you a bully?” say, “When you laugh at my ideas, call me this name, and compare me to your kids — like you did on these four occasions — those specific actions and comments prevent me from giving you and this company my absolute best. And I want very much to over-deliver for you, so I’d respectfully request that you stop doing this.” Stick just to facts delivered in a reasoned manner.

The Schemer: The schemer attempts to undermine your status by repeatedly withholding key information from you, excluding you from e-mail distributions, and intentionally leaving you out of meetings when you ought to be in the loop. The schemer nitpicks and micromanages, somehow always finding fault with your work, and fails to give you credit for the good work you do. A demanding boss can push you to deliver the best and can set the bar high with big expectations for excellence, but the schemer is never satisfied because of barriers that he or she puts in your way.

Document Details: Complaining about these toxic tactics can make you seem petty — “Oh, I wasn’t invited to the meeting; oh, the boss never told me about this” — so to avoid that impression, you want to document the details over time. It could be a couple of weeks or even a month where you write down exactly what happened, when, where and any witnesses, so it’s all spelled out in meticulous detail. Keep copies of any supporting documentation. That prevents you from being brushed off as a petty complainer or thin-skinned. Depending on the size of your organization, you’ll bring this to HR or you may have to go directly to the boss. You’re not just going to report this behavior, but also going to demonstrate that it’s impacting your work because it has created an uncomfortable or even hostile work environment. Even though bullying has been proven to be costly to the company’s bottom line, which is why they should take action to nip this behavior, don’t expect HR to be instantly on your side. HR works for the company’s benefit, not that of any individual employee. If you don’t find satisfaction, you may have to contact a labor lawyer who can advise you on your situation.

Walk -Away Time

So many people have told me in recent days and months that they’re really stuck on this one. They can’t afford to quit — and they’re afraid they won’t easily find a new job, which is very natural — but they’re also at a breaking point in an unhealthy environment. While I’d never cavalierly tell anyone to walk away from a paycheck without a financial safety  net, there are two considerations:

1. Your mental health and self-esteem are far more important than any one position. As hard as it may be to pound the pavement while unemployed, you always can get a new job but it’s far more challenging to rebuild your crushed confidence and your declining health.

2. Focus on plotting your Plan B right now as a positive distraction while you’re still employed. Get serious about job searching or starting your dream business to go out on your own. Just knowing that you’re taking steps to make a change — and bring an end to this misery — will likely make you feel better. Doing nothing and feeling trapped is the worst. You have choices — make them.

Support Co-Workers: Even if you’re not subjected to a toxic boss, as colleagues we shouldn’t sit silent while our co-workers are subjected to this form of bullying. Let someone know that you see what they’re going through and you’ll support them any way you can.

Seek Help: If you’ve done everything you can to no avail, seek professional help. This may be from your state’s labor department, a lawyer or a counselor to weigh your options.

One in Eight Health Workers Bullied in Britain

Here’s a BBC story of a recent survey of health workers that shows almost one in eight experience bullying or harassment. The department adopted a workplace bulllying policy in 2008. PGB

——————–

Health staff ‘suffering bullying’

By Justin Parkinson; Political reporter, BBC News

Almost one in eight Department of Health staff have experienced bullying or harassment at work, a civil service survey suggests.

The survey also reports that nearly one in 10 workers say they have experienced discrimination.

The survey of more than 2,000 civil servants was carried out last year, with staff asked questions about the previous 12 months.

A department spokesman said there was “no place” for abuse at work.

Of the 2,057 staff who responded to a question on whether they had personally experienced discrimination at work during the past

year, 9% said they had. Some 84% said they had not and 7% preferred not to say.

‘Dignity and respect’

Asked the same question about bullying and harassment, 2,056 people replied. Some 12% said they had experienced such problems, while 83% had not and 6% would not say.

The Civil Service-wide People Survey was carried out for the first time from October to November last year.

The Department of Health’s own previous staff survey results are not directly comparable, as employees were asked to confirm that they had “not” personally experienced bullying or harassment over the previous three months.

Over the period from June 2008 to June 2009, the proportion agreeing to this statement increased from 74% to 84%.

The spokesman said: “All Department of Health staff have the right to be treated with consideration, fairness, dignity and respect. There is absolutely no place in the workplace for abuse of any sort.

“We launched our Bullying and Harassment policy in March 2008 to emphasise that any form of bullying or harassment is unacceptable and procedures for how employees can raise a complaint.

“We will continue to monitor the situation through regular staff surveys. Any cases of bullying or harassment will be fully investigated and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8509932.stm

Published: 2010/02/11 09:21:24 GMT

Alleged Bullycide of Wisconsin Woman Prompts Bill

April 7, 2010

Amid emotional testimony, bill targets workplace bullying

By DEE J. HALL

In 2008, 31-year-old Jodie Zebell appeared to have a full life. The UW-Madison graduate was married with two young children and a part-time job as a mammographer at a La Crosse clinic, where she was praised as a model employee.

But soon afterward, Zebell became the target of co-workers who unfairly blamed her for problems at work. After she was promoted, the bullying intensified, her aunt Joie Bostwick recalled during a legislative hearing Wednesday attended by members of her niece’s family, including Zebell’s mother, Jean Jones of Spring Hill, Fla.

After her niece had a run-in with her supervisor, Bostwick said, the boss joined in the harassment, filling Zebell’s personnel file with baseless complaints about her performance and loudly criticizing her in front of others.

“This went on for a series of months,” said Bostwick, a Blue Mounds native who now lives in Naples, Fla. “It just got worse and worse.”

On Feb. 3, 2008, the day before she was to receive a poor job review, Jodie Zebell allegedly committed bullycide – took her own life as a result of depression over bullying. A Madison attorney told the family it had no legal recourse since she wasn’t protected from workplace discrimination as would be an older worker or a racial, ethnic or religious minority.

“We were astounded to find there was nothing we could do. There were no laws unless you were part of a protected class,” Bostwick said.

The tragedy sparked Zebell’s family to join a national movement seeking to ban bullying from workplaces and give victims — who prefer to call themselves “targets” — tools to stop the harassment or sue abusive employers and bullies in court.

Abusive conduct

On Wednesday, the Assembly Labor Committee heard 90 minutes of often emotional testimony on a bill sponsored by state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, that would require employers to implement and enforce anti-bullying policies — or face their abused employees in court.

Seventeen states are considering such legislation, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute of Bellingham, Wash., whose director, Gary Namie, also testified at the hearing.

Under the proposal, workers who believe they have been harmed by “abusive conduct” could sue to force the employer to stop the bullying, to seek reinstatement or to get compensation for lost wages, medical costs, attorneys’ fees, emotional distress and punitive damages.

The bill defines abusive conduct as “repeated infliction of verbal abuse, verbal or physical conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating, sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance or exploitation of an employee’s known psychological or physical vulnerability.”

Vaguely worded bill

Representatives of business groups told the committee the bill is too vaguely worded and would invite frivolous lawsuits by disgruntled and incompetent workers.

“AB 894 paints a target on the back of small employers … (who) can’t afford to fight claims in circuit courts,” said Pete Hanson, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Andrew Cook of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, a consortium of large business groups, agreed. Cook said if Wisconsin becomes the first state to pass such a bill, it would harm the state’s ability to attract business.

Emotional stories

But at the hearing, such concerns were largely overshadowed by these stories:

• A Spanish teacher testified she was “iced out and isolated” for four years by older colleagues in her school district. Once a marathon runner, Susan Stiede now suffers from clinical depression, chest pain, panic attacks and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She quit teaching in 2009.

• A nervous Stephanie Endres told of being harassed by a unnamed female boss in a state agency that she declined to name. Intimidated by Endres’ knowledge of the agency, the new supervisor circulated untrue rumors about her, Endres said, banished her to an office with no phone and separated her from her co-workers. When Endres took a six-month stress leave, the supervisor started bullying other members of the staff, she said.

• Dr. Deborah Lemke told lawmakers of an unnamed Wisconsin hospital where the nursing supervisor verbally bullied nurses on his staff. When she intervened on behalf of the nurses, Lemke said, holding back tears, she herself became a target.

Corliss Olson, associate professor at the UW-Extension’s School for Workers, said the bill is “desperately” needed.  Olson said most targets of bullying are “normal, competent people” who can be driven to disability or even death.  “This is a viciousness in the workplace that we need to stop,” Olson said. “We can and we must change our workplaces so they are civil.”

FROM: WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL

New York’s Healthy Workplace Bill (2010)

This bill was approved by the New York State Senate on May 12, 2010 by a vote of 45 to 16, with one abstention. It failed to gain passage in the House.  See the general blog entry about the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) to read an analysis of the problems with the HWB.  It’s needs work! PGB

S1823B: Establishes a civil cause of action for employees who are subjected to an abusive work environment

S1823B Summary Establishes a civil cause of action for employees who are subjected to an abusive work environment.

TITLE OF BILL : An act to amend the labor law, in relation to establishing a private cause of action for an abusive work environment

PURPOSE : To establish a civil cause of action for employees who are subject to an abusive work environment.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS : Clearly states the definitions of abusive conduct; abusive work environment; conduct; constructive discharge; employee; employer; malice; negative employment decision; physical harm; and psychological harm.

Section 3 defines Unlawful Employment Practice

Section 4 defines Employer Liability

Section 5 defines Defenses

Section 6 defines Retaliation

Section 7 defines Relief generally Employer liability

Section 8 defines Procedures Private right of action Time limitations

Section 9 defines Effect on Collective Bargaining Agreements

Section 10 defines Effect on other state laws other state laws Worker’s compensation and election remedies

JUSTIFICATION : The social and economic well-being of the state is dependent upon healthy and productive employees. Surveys and studies have documented that between 16 to 21 percent of employees directly experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse and harassment, and that this behavior is four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone. Surveys and studies have also documented that abusive work environments can have serious effects on targeted employees, including feelings of shame and humiliation, stress, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, reduced immunity to infection, stress related gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, pathophysiologic changes that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other such effects. This legislation will provide legal redress for employees who have been harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically. It will also provide legal incentives for employers to prevent and respond to mistreatment of employees at work.
S1823B Text

S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K
1823–B
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. The labor law is amended by adding a new article 20-D to read as follows:
ARTICLE 20-D ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT SECTION 760. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT. 761. DEFINITIONS. 762. ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT. 763. EMPLOYER LIABILITY. 764. DEFENSES. 765. RETALIATION. 766. REMEDIES. 767. ENFORCEMENT. 768. EFFECT ON COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS. 769. EFFECT OF OTHER LAWS.

S 760. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT. THE LEGISLATURE HEREBY FINDS THAT THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC WELL-BEING OF THE STATE IS DEPENDENT UPON HEALTHY AND PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES. SURVEYS AND STUDIES HAVE DOCUMENTED THAT BETWEEN SIXTEEN AND TWENTY-ONE PERCENT OF EMPLOYEES DIRECTLY EXPE RIENCE HEALTH ENDANGERING WORKPLACE BULLYING, ABUSE AND HARASSMENT. SUCH BEHAVIOR IS FOUR TIMES MORE PREVALENT THAN SEXUAL HARASSMENT. THESE EXPLANATION–Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00743-04-0
S. 1823–B 2 SURVEYS AND STUDIES HAVE FURTHER FOUND THAT ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS CAN HAVE SERIOUS EFFECTS ON THE TARGETED EMPLOYEES, INCLUDING FEELINGS OF SHAME AND HUMILIATION, STRESS, LOSS OF SLEEP, SEVERE ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, REDUCED IMMUNITY TO INFECTION, STRESS-RELATED GASTROINTESTINAL DISORDERS, HYPERTENSION, AND PATHOPHYSIOLOGIC CHANGES THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES. FURTHERMORE, THE LEGISLATURE FINDS THAT ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS CAN HAVE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR EMPLOYERS, INCLUDING REDUCED EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY AND MORALE, HIGHER TURNOVER AND ABSENTEEISM RATES, AND SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN MEDICAL AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS. THE LEGISLATURE HEREBY FINDS THAT UNLESS MISTREATED EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO ABUSIVE TREATMENT IN THE WORKPLACE ON THE BASIS OF RACE, COLOR, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN OR AGE, SUCH EMPLOYEES ARE UNLIKELY TO HAVE LEGAL RECOURSE TO REDRESS SUCH TREATMENT. THE LEGISLATURE HEREBY DECLARES THAT LEGAL PROTECTION FROM ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO BEHAVIOR GROUNDED IN A PROTECTED CLASS STATUS AS REQUIRED BY EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION STAT UTES. EXISTING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROVISIONS AND COMMON LAW TORT LAW ARE INADEQUATE TO DISCOURAGE SUCH ABUSIVE CONDUCT AND PROVIDE ADEQUATE REDRESS TO EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE BEEN HARMED BY ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS. THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE TO PROVIDE LEGAL REDRESS FOR EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE BEEN HARMED PSYCHOLOGICALLY, PHYSICALLY OR ECONOM ICALLY BY BEING DELIBERATELY SUBJECTED TO ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS; AND TO PROVIDE LEGAL INCENTIVES FOR EMPLOYERS TO PREVENT AND RESPOND TO MISTREATMENT OF EMPLOYEES AT WORK.

S 761. DEFINITIONS. AS USED IN THIS ARTICLE, THE FOLLOWING TERMS SHALL HAVE THE FOLLOWING MEANINGS:
1. “ABUSIVE CONDUCT” MEANS CONDUCT, WITH MALICE, TAKEN AGAINST AN EMPLOYEE BY AN EMPLOYER OR ANOTHER EMPLOYEE IN THE WORKPLACE, THAT A REASONABLE PERSON WOULD FIND TO BE HOSTILE, OFFENSIVE AND UNRELATED TO THE EMPLOYER’S LEGITIMATE BUSINESS INTERESTS. IN CONSIDERING WHETHER SUCH CONDUCT IS OCCURRING, THE TRIER OF FACT SHOULD WEIGH THE SEVERITY, NATURE AND FREQUENCY OF THE CONDUCT. ABUSIVE CONDUCT SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO, REPEATED INFLICTION OF VERBAL ABUSE, SUCH AS THE USE OF DEROGATORY REMARKS, INSULTS AND EPITHETS; VERBAL OR PHYSICAL CONDUCT THAT A REASONABLE PERSON WOULD FIND THREATENING, INTIMIDATING OR HUMILI ATING; OR THE GRATUITOUS SABOTAGE OR UNDERMINING OF AN EMPLOYEE’S WORK PERFORMANCE. A SINGLE ACT SHALL NOT CONSTITUTE ABUSIVE CONDUCT, UNLESS THE TRIER OF FACT FINDS SUCH ACT TO BE ESPECIALLY SEVERE OR EGREGIOUS. 2. “ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT” MEANS A WORKPLACE IN WHICH AN EMPLOYEE IS SUBJECTED TO ABUSIVE CONDUCT THAT IS SO SEVERE THAT IT CAUSES PHYS ICAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL HARM TO SUCH EMPLOYEE, AND WHERE SUCH EMPLOYEE PROVIDES NOTICE TO THE EMPLOYER THAT SUCH EMPLOYEE HAS BEEN SUBJECTED TO ABUSIVE CONDUCT AND SUCH EMPLOYER AFTER RECEIVING NOTICE THEREOF, FAILS TO ELIMINATE THE ABUSIVE CONDUCT. 3. “CONDUCT” MEANS ALL FORMS OF BEHAVIOR, INCLUDING ACTS AND OMISSIONS TO ACT. 4. “CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE” MEANS ABUSIVE CONDUCT AGAINST AN EMPLOYEE THAT CAUSES SUCH EMPLOYEE TO RESIGN FROM HIS OR HER EMPLOYMENT. 5. “MALICE” MEANS THE INTENT TO CAUSE ANOTHER PERSON TO SUFFER PSYCHO LOGICAL, PHYSICAL OR ECONOMIC HARM, WITHOUT LEGITIMATE CAUSE OR JUSTI FICATION. MALICE MAY BE INFERRED FROM THE PRESENCE OF FACTORS SUCH AS OUTWARD EXPRESSIONS OF HOSTILITY, HARMFUL CONDUCT INCONSISTENT WITH AN EMPLOYER’S LEGITIMATE BUSINESS INTERESTS, A CONTINUATION OF HARMFUL AND ILLEGITIMATE CONDUCT AFTER A COMPLAINANT REQUESTS THAT IT CEASE OR S. 1823–B 3 DISPLAYS OUTWARD SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL DISTRESS IN THE FACE OF THE CONDUCT, OR ATTEMPTS TO EXPLOIT THE COMPLAINANT’S KNOWN PSYCHOLOG ICAL OR PHYSICAL VULNERABILITY. 6. “NEGATIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION” MEANS A TERMINATION, CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE, DEMOTION, UNFAVORABLE REASSIGNMENT, REFUSAL TO PROMOTE OR DISCIPLINARY ACTION. 7. “PHYSICAL HARM” MEANS THE MATERIAL IMPAIRMENT OF A PERSON’S PHYS ICAL HEALTH OR BODILY INTEGRITY, AS DOCUMENTED BY A COMPETENT PHYSICIAN OR SUPPORTED BY COMPETENT EXPERT EVIDENCE AT TRIAL. 8. “PSYCHOLOGICAL HARM” MEANS THE MATERIAL IMPAIRMENT OF A PERSON’S MENTAL HEALTH, AS DOCUMENTED BY A COMPETENT PHYSICIAN OR SUPPORTED BY COMPETENT EXPERT EVIDENCE AT TRIAL.

S 762. ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT. IT SHALL BE UNLAWFUL TO SUBJECT AN EMPLOYEE TO AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT.

S 763. EMPLOYER LIABILITY. AN EMPLOYER SHALL BE CIVILLY LIABLE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT WITHIN ANY WORKPLACE UNDER ITS CONTROL.

S 764. DEFENSES. 1. IT SHALL BE AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT, THAT THE EMPLOYER EXERCISED REASON ABLE CARE TO PREVENT AND PROMPTLY CORRECT THE ABUSIVE CONDUCT WHICH IS THE BASIS OF SUCH CAUSE OF ACTION AND THE PLAINTIFF UNREASONABLY FAILED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE APPROPRIATE PREVENTIVE OR CORRECTIVE OPPORTU NITIES PROVIDED BY SUCH EMPLOYER. SUCH AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE SHALL NOT BE AVAILABLE TO AN EMPLOYER WHEN THE ABUSIVE CONDUCT CULMINATES IN A NEGA TIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION WITH REGARD TO THE PLAINTIFF. 2. IT SHALL BE AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT, THAT THE EMPLOYER MADE A NEGATIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION WITH REGARD TO THE PLAINTIFF WHICH IS CONSISTENT WITH SUCH EMPLOYER’S LEGITIMATE BUSINESS INTERESTS, SUCH AS TERMINATION OR DEMOTION BASED ON THE PLAINTIFF’S POOR PERFORMANCE OR THE COMPLAINT IS BASED PRIMARILY UPON THE EMPLOYER’S REASONABLE INVESTIGATION OF POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, ILLEGAL OR UNETHICAL ACTIVITY.

S 765. RETALIATION. ANY RETALIATORY ACTION AGAINST ANY EMPLOYEE ALLEG ING A VIOLATION OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE A RETALIATORY PERSONNEL ACTION AS PROHIBITED BY SECTION SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY OF THIS CHAPTER.

S 766. REMEDIES. 1. WHERE A DEFENDANT HAS BEEN FOUND TO HAVE ENGAGED IN ABUSIVE CONDUCT, OR CAUSED OR MAINTAINED AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT, THE COURT MAY ENJOIN SUCH DEFENDANT FROM ENGAGING IN SUCH ILLEGAL ACTIV ITY AND MAY ORDER ANY OTHER RELIEF THAT IS APPROPRIATE INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, REINSTATEMENT, REMOVAL OF THE OFFENDING PARTY FROM THE PLAINTIFF’S WORK ENVIRONMENT, REIMBURSEMENT FOR LOST WAGES, MEDICAL EXPENSES, COMPENSATION FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS, PUNITIVE DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY FEES. 2. WHERE AN EMPLOYER HAS BEEN FOUND TO HAVE CAUSED OR MAINTAINED AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT DID NOT RESULT IN A NEGATIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION, SUCH EMPLOYER’S LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS SHALL NOT EXCEED TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS AND SHALL HAVE NO LIABIL ITY FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SUBDIVISION SHALL NOT APPLY TO ANY EMPLOYEE WHO ENGAGES IN ABUSIVE CONDUCT.

S 767. ENFORCEMENT. 1. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE ARE ENFORCEABLE BY MEANS OF A CIVIL CAUSE OF ACTION COMMENCED BY AN INJURED EMPLOYEE. 2. NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF THE CIVIL PRACTICE LAW AND RULES, AN ACTION TO ENFORCE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE COMMENCED WITHIN ONE YEAR OF THE LAST ABUSIVE CONDUCT WHICH IS THE BASIS OF THE ALLEGATION OF ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT. S. 1823–B 4

S 768. EFFECT ON COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS. THIS ARTICLE SHALL NOT PREVENT, INTERFERE, EXEMPT OR SUPERSEDE ANY CURRENT PROVISIONS OF AN EMPLOYEE’S EXISTING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT WHICH PROVIDES GREATER RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS THAN PRESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE NOR SHALL THIS ARTICLE PREVENT ANY NEW PROVISIONS OF THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT WHICH PROVIDE GREATER RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS FROM BEING IMPLE MENTED AND APPLICABLE TO SUCH EMPLOYEE WITHIN SUCH COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT. WHERE THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT PROVIDES GREATER RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS THAN PRESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE, THE RECOGNIZED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGENT MAY OPT TO ACCEPT OR REJECT TO BE COVERED BY THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE.

S 769. EFFECT OF OTHER LAWS. 1. NO PROVISION OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE DEEMED TO EXEMPT ANY PERSON OR ENTITY FROM ANY LIABILITY, DUTY OR PENAL TY PROVIDED BY ANY OTHER STATE LAW, RULE OR REGULATION. 2. THE REMEDIES OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE GRANTED IN ADDITION TO ANY COMPENSATION AVAILABLE PURSUANT TO THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAW; PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT NO PERSON WHO HAS COLLECTED WORKERS’ COMPEN SATION BENEFITS FOR CONDITIONS ARISING OUT OF AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRON MENT, SHALL BE AUTHORIZED TO COMMENCE A CAUSE OF ACTION PURSUANT TO THIS ARTICLE FOR THE SAME SUCH CONDITIONS.

S 2. This act shall take effect immediately, and shall apply to abusive conduct occurring on or after such date.

TOP 10 REASONS FOR BEING TARGETED

1. I remained independent, refused to be controlled. (70%)

2. My competence and reputation were threatening. (67%)

3. The Bully’s personality. (59%)

4. My being liked by co-workers and customers (47%)

5. In retaliation for my reporting unethical or illegal conduct, whistleblowing. (38%)

6. I was focused solely on work and ignored the politics. 36%)

7. Bully had personal problems. (35%)

8. I am nonconfrontative and easily overrun by others. (33%)

9. I was at a time of personal medical or life vulnerability or changes. (30%)

10. I could not afford to leave the job and the bully knew it. (30%)

* From Workplace Bullying Institute (2003)(non-scientific survey of 1,000 volunteer respondents who visited WBI’s web site).

TIME MAG: NEW LAWS TARGET WORKPLACE BULLYING

Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010


TIME MAGAZINE

Case Study

New Laws Target Workplace Bullying

By Adam Cohen
There are some very important things they don’t tell you on career day. Chief among them is that there is a good chance that at some point during your working adult life you will have an abusive boss — the kind who uses his or her authority to torment subordinates. Bullying bosses scream, often with the goal of humiliating. They write up false evaluations to put good workers’ jobs at risk. Some are serial bullies, targeting one worker and, when he or she is gone, moving on to their next victim.

Bosses may abuse because they have impossibly high standards, are insecure or have not been properly socialized. But some simply enjoy it. Recent brain-scan research has shown that bullies are wired differently. When they see a victim in pain, it triggers parts of their brain associated with pleasure. (See 10 ways your job will change.)

Worker abuse is a widespread problem — in a 2007 Zogby poll, 37% of American adults said they had been bullied at work — and most of it is perfectly legal. Workers who are abused based on their membership in a protected class — race, nationality or religion, among others — can sue under civil rights laws. But the law generally does not protect against plain old viciousness.

That may be about to change. Workers’ rights advocates have been campaigning for years to get states to enact laws against workplace bullying, and in May they scored their biggest victory. The New York state senate passed a bill that would let workers sue for physical, psychological or economic harm due to abusive treatment on the job. If New York’s Healthy Workplace Bill becomes law, workers who can show that they were subjected to hostile conduct — including verbal abuse, threats or work sabotage — could be awarded lost wages, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Not surprisingly, many employers oppose the bill. They argue that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits and put them at risk for nothing more than running a tight ship and expecting a lot from their workers. But supporters of the law point out that it is crafted to cover only the most offensive and deliberate abuse. The bill requires that wrongful conduct be done with “malice,” and in most cases that it has to be repeated. It also provides affirmative defenses for companies that investigate promptly and address the problem in good faith. (See “When Bullying Goes Criminal.”)

The New York state assembly is expected to take up the bill next year. At least 16 other states are considering similar bills, and some employment-law experts think antibullying legislation may have real momentum now.

Legislatures are not the only ones standing up to bullies. In 2008, the Indiana supreme court struck a blow against workplace bullying when it upheld a $325,000 verdict against a cardiovascular surgeon. A medical technician who operated a heart and lung machine during surgery accused the surgeon of charging at him with clenched fists, screaming and swearing. The formal legal claims were intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault, but the plaintiff argued it as a bullying case, and had an expert on workplace bullying testify at trial.

Ideally, employers should rein in abusive bosses on their own, but that rarely happens. Many bullies are close to powerful people in the organization and carefully target less powerful ones. When John Bolton was nominated to be ambassador to the U.N. by President George W. Bush, a former subordinate told the Senate that Bolton was a “serial abuser” and — in a phrase that has since entered the bullying lexicon — a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” (See “How Not to Raise a Bully.”)

There are reasons workplace bullying may be getting worse now, including the bad economy. In good times, abused workers can simply walk out on a job if they are being mistreated. But with unemployment at around 9.5%, and five job seekers for every available job, many employees feel they have no choice but to stay put.

Another factor is the decline of organized labor. Unions were once a worker’s front-line defense against an abusive boss. If a supervisor was out of line, the shop steward would talk to him — on behalf of all of the workers. But union membership has fallen from 35% of the workforce in the 1950s to under 13% today, and some unions are less aggressive than they once were. (See what to do if you have a bad boss.)

That leaves litigation. There seems to be a strong constituency for laws allowing workers to sue over workplace abuse. The vote on the Healthy Workplace Bill was bipartisan and not close: New York state senators favored it 45 to 16.

If states enact laws of this kind and lawsuits begin to be filed, juries are far more likely to sympathize with the bullied worker than the bullying boss — and damages awards could be large. There is one easy way for employers to head all of this off: get more serious about rooting out abusive bosses before serious damage is done.

Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2005358,00.html#ixzz11RYkRH00

ILO: U.S.DOMESTIC WORKERS TO GET A DAY OFF?

International Labor Organization’s World of Work Magazine

#68 – April 2010

Decent work for domestic workers

NEW YORK – According to the US census there are currently over two million people engaged in domestic service in the United States – a number that is probably a significant underestimate. Overworked, underpaid and, until fairly recently, isolated, domestic workers do not even have the right to organize, clinging to the coat tails of labour federations to see their few rights defended.

The plight of domestic workers caring for the sick and the elderly is of particular concern. According to a recent report by the Alliance for Retired Americans, the American Association for People with Disabilities, and the labour federations AFL-CIO and “Change to Win”, roughly half of all home-care workers work full time year round. They are twice as likely as other workers to receive food stamps and to lack health insurance, while one in five lives below the poverty level.

According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a leading labour organization, 90 per cent of home-care workers are female, and one in four heads a household with children. “These people are engaged in essential work that enables others to go out and make a living,” says Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United (DWU) a grassroots organization based in New York, “and yet they are denied a living themselves.”

The last time US labour law was changed to expand coverage for domestic workers was in 1974 with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but employees providing “companionship services” to the aged and disabled were left out (“exempted” in the language of the document) – deemed too casual and informal for legal protection. Since 1974 the world has changed, and both the numbers of home-care workers and the services they provide have grown, but the law has failed to grow with them.

The last time the FLSA’s so-called domestic worker “exemption” was challenged was in 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled that home health-care workers were not eligible for the overtime and minimum wage protections extended to others. And the domestic worker exemption is but one of a list of similar exclusions. As already mentioned, domestic workers in the United States have no right to organize under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). They have no protection under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). They have no protection under civil rights laws.

… Last summer fifteen US senators sent an open letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, calling for the repeal of the exemption, and arguing in favour of a national minimum wage and the extension of federal overtime requirements to domestic workers. Solis, the daughter of an immigrant domestic worker herself, has been supportive of the idea of scrapping the exemption, referring to it as a “loophole” which should be closed.

How soon that will happen is anyone’s guess, but domestic workers may not have to wait for Congress to get round to changing the law because change may be coming state by state, starting in New York where a comprehensive Domestic Worker Bill of Rights looks set to pass in the State Senate in the coming month or so. If passed the legislation will grant housekeepers, nannies and caregivers the same rights that the majority of US labour enjoys, notably: time-and-a-half for every hour over 40 hours per week; one day off per 7-day calendar week; a limited number of paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days; advance notice of termination or severance pay in lieu of notice. The bill will also give domestic workers the ability to sue employers where these provisions are not met. The bill has been debated within the State legislature for more than six years, and has already passed in the State Assembly. The State Governor has pledged to sign legislation once it reaches his desk.

“It’s going to put domestic workers on an equal footing with everyone else,” says DWU’s Gonzalez, one of the activists who have been fighting for change for a number of years. “The new laws are also going to send a strong message to the work force about being recognized and protected under the law.” Some domestic workers are already getting the message.

“The Bill of Rights will put an end to decades and decades of exploitation,” says Patricia Francois, a nanny who spent six-and-a-half years looking after the daughter of a wealthy Manhattan couple until she was fired in December of 2008 after an altercation (Francois claims that her employer punched her in the face, a claim the employer disputes).

For Francois the importance of the bill goes beyond any specific rights it may include. “It will give us back our dignity and respect,” she says.

And the bill’s impact will not be limited to New York. Andrea Cristina Mercado, Lead Organizer of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), a group of San Francisco/Oakland-based activists – says that as a result of the New York campaign, MUA has decided to push for a legislative Bill of Rights campaign in California. “This year we are going to be introducing a resolution in support of domestic workers at the State level and we are hoping that will help us build momentum for a legislative campaign in 2011,” she says. The last time groups like MUA tried to effect change in California was in January 2006 when they managed to get the so-called “Nanny Bill” introduced in the California Assembly.

The bill was passed by the Assembly and the Senate but was then vetoed by the Governor of California. This time Mercado believes things will be different: “In 2006 we were just focused on rights for overtime and fines for abusive employers,” she says. “This time, we will take an approach similar to the one used in New York and will be going for a comprehensive Bill of Rights, an inspiring platform that gets people stirred up.”

And it is not just the approach to campaigning that has changed. The big difference between now and 2006 is that grass-roots domestic labour movements in the United States have become organized. Domestic workers may be banned from forming a union, but there is nothing to stop cooperatives and associations coming together to exchange information and develop strategy. And this is exactly what they have been doing, beginning in June of 2007 when a small group of domestic workers came together at a National Domestic Worker Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. On the last day of the gathering the participants took the decision to form a National Domestic Worker Alliance (NDWA) to give domestic workers a voice and to draw attention to their plight. “There were all these local campaigns and initiatives going on, but we wanted to create a coherent whole – and not to have to reinvent the wheel each time,” says NDWA lead organizer Jill Shenker.

The basic idea behind the NDWA was that domestic workers in one state could learn lessons from their counterparts in another; the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights is the first indication of how powerful that approach can be. “The California coalition has been inspired by what their sisters in New York have achieved,” says Shenker, reporting that a comprehensive bill called the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (CDWBR) has already been drawn up. The NDWA has also provided the participants with a sense of connection and of course empowerment. “We are not just about tinkering with the labour code,” says Shenker. “What we’re trying to do is build a social movement.”

… Founded by 13 organizations, the NDWA now comprises over 30, and it is only a matter of time before other states, notably Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington pick up the Bill of Rights idea. “We’re really excited about what’s coming down the pipeline,” says DWU’s Gonzalez. “Everyone is watching what is happening in Albany.” Soon they’ll be watching what happens in California.

Other Federal Laws

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT OF 1970

Some experts say the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should take the lead on combating workplace bullying.*  There is overwhelming evidence that workplace bullying can lead to serious injury and even death.  In fact, a term has been coined for workers who are driven to suicide as a result of bullying – “bullycide.”  In several other countries, workplace bullying is considered a health and safety issues and is regulated by a federal agency like OSHA. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in May 2011 adopted a safety program for its own workers that includes a workplace anti-bully policy. The policy is contained in a 278-page document, the OSHA Field Health and Safety Manual,  which outlines safety practices for OSHA’s field offices. It was drafted in cooperation with the National Council of Field Labor Locals, a union that represents OSHA workers.

OSHA’s workplace bullying policy is significant because the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees … .” However, OSHA has not enforced that provision with respect to workplace bullying.

The stated purpose of the workplace bullying policy adopted by OSHA for its own workers,  contained in the manual’s “Violence in the Workplace” chapter. is: ”To provide a workplace that is free from violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior.”

Here is the OSHA General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) SEC. 5:

Duties

(a) Each employer —

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees …

*See Susan Harthill. “The Need for a Revitalized Regulatory Scheme to Address Workplace Bullying in the United States: Harnessing the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.” University of Cincinnati Law Review 78.4 (2010): 1250-1306.

WAGE AND HOUR LAWS

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address workplace bullying per se but it can be used to combat certain types of abuse. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.  The FLSA is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division  If one aspect of the bullying campaign is failure to pay proper wages or overtime, for example, the FLSA is one potential remedy.

THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT

The National Labor Relations Act  (NLRA) was passed in 1935 to protect the right of employees in the private sector to create labor unions, engage in collective bargaining and to take part in strikes. The act is also known as the Wagner Act, after its sponsor, Sen. Robert F. Wagner.  The act is regulated by the National Labor Relations Board.

 Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “protected concerted activity,”  which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment.  A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

A few examples of protected concerted activities are:

  • Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their pay.
  • Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
  • An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

Most employees in the private sector are covered by the NLRA. However, the Act specifically excludes individuals who are employed by federal, state, or local governments, agricultural laborers, some close relatives of the employer, domestic servants in a home, independent contractors, employers subject to the Railway Labor Act, etc.

FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

The Familiy and Medical Leave Act (FMLA offers potential help for employees who are suffering health effects from workplace abuse.  Administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, it  entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

-the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;

-the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;

-to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;

a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;

– any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or

Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee (military caregiver leave).