While federal and state laws to address workplace bullying remain elusive, the U.S. government is moving forward to address the problem.
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) recently placed “nonsexual harassment” on its research agenda for 2015-2018. In the past, the MSPB has focused on sexual harassment but it has not previously addressed the problem of general harassment or workplace bullying. The Board states it will study ways to foster effective work environments by eliminating nonsexual harassment.
Meanwhile, the EEOC last month formed a Select Task Force to examine the problem of workplace harassment and look at ways by which it might be prevented. EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang said 30 percent of the charges received by the EEOC each year include harassment complaints. The task force, which includes 16 members from around the country, will hold a series of meetings, including public meetings, in the year ahead.
The Occupational Safety Health Administration signed a union agreement in 2011 that provides protection against workplace bullying to its own workforce. Unfortunately, OSHA, which is charged with insuring the safety of America’s private sector workers, has yet to extend these same protections to workers outside OSHA.
According to the MSPB: “Nonsexual harassment is particularly inappropriate when the perpetrator is a supervisor or otherwise exercises official authority over the employee,” states the MSPB.
The MSPB states that federal employees should be aware of the problem of nonsexual harassment and “cognizant of the hazards of nonsexual harassment and strategies to extinguish this behavior before it undermines the quality of their workplace.”
Specifically, the board will study:
- How do federal employees define nonsexual harassment?
- How prevalent is it in the federal workplace?
- Who are the most common perpetrators and victims of nonsexual harassment?
- What effect does nonsexual harassment have on federal workplace outcomes like retention and turnover, motivation, engagement, job satisfaction, and leader trust?
- Do federal employees believe that appropriate action is being taken to address nonsexual harassment?
- What strategies, both effective and ineffective, are used to address it?
The MSPB is an independent, quasi-judicial agency in the Executive branch that hears employee appeals of decisions of the Civil Service Commission, reviews significant actions of the U.S. Office of Program Management, and performs merit system studies.
There is overwhelming evidence that workplace bullying causes targets to suffer potentially severe mental and physical health impacts. Employers pay the price for bullying in the form of personnel turnover, low morale and absenteeism, higher health care costs and unnecessary litigation