Appeals Ct: NV Officials On The Hook For Failing To Investigate Worker’s Complaint

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that four Nevada officials can be sued for allegedly scuttling an investigation into a retaliation complaint filed by a whistleblower who worked at Ear Nose and Throat Associates (ENTA) in Las Vegas, NV.

Helen Armstrong, a human resources supervisor at ENTA, reported the health and safety violations at ENTA in 2014 to the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NOSHA), a state agency, when ENTA failed to take action. She alleged, among other things, the practice reused contaminated syringes and sold expired prescriptions.

NOSHA investigated and issued ENTA a fine.

ENTA allegedly immediately began retaliating against Armstrong, who had worked there for 23 years, and eventually fired her in 2016.

In an important ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, has ruled that  “at will” employees like Armstrong have a limited property interest in their job and can’t be fired for a “prohibited reason” like reporting health and safety violations to NOSHA. 

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Mexico And Canada Act On Psychological Violence In The Workplace While America Buries Its Head In the Sand

The U.S. continues to  trail the rest of the developed world by ignoring the serious problem of psychological violence in the workplace.

The U.S. is now being surpassed by both of its neighbors,  Mexico and Canada.

This despite a spate of  workplace shootings that should at least raise questions about the problem of psychological violence in the workplace.

Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security last year published in its official gazette a set of  regulations addressing risks posed by psychological violence in the workplace called  Federal Regulation of Health and Safety at Work.  These regulations require employers to identify, analyze and prevent work-related psychological risks. They will go into effect on Oct. 23, 2019.

The regulations also require large Mexican employers to adopt measures to prevent and control psychological risks, address acts of violence, and promote a healthy workplace environment.

Continue reading “Mexico And Canada Act On Psychological Violence In The Workplace While America Buries Its Head In the Sand”

Canada Set to Address Workplace Bullying & Harassment

While the U.S. snoozes, Canada’s Parliament is taking steps to protect public sector workers from bullying and harassment  in the workplace.

Canada’s proposed Bill C 65 would amend Canada’s Labour Code by expanding the definition of “workplace violence”  to include both physical and psychological injuries and illnesses.

The bill’s definition of “harassment and violence” includes “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.”

The bill was passed by Canada’s Senate and is now pending before the House of Commons, which is seeking public input on a proposed regulatory framework to implement the bill.  If approved, the bill will apply to all federally regulated workplaces, including workers in the Canadian Parliament, banks, telecommunications and transportation industries. Continue reading “Canada Set to Address Workplace Bullying & Harassment”

Solutions Exist to End Workplace Bullying; What is Lacking is the Will to Act

What to do about workplace bullying?

The Boston Globe published an article on the problem of workplace bullying recently that focused on a proposed state-by-state solution that has been touted since 2001 by Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute and Suffolk University Professor David R. Yamada, author of the proposed  Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB).  Originally introduced in California in 2002, the HWB  has been considered in some form by more than two dozen states. If Massachusetts eventually passes the HWP, that only leaves workers in 49 states,  five territories and the District of Columbia without protection from workplace bullying.

Is this really where all the din and struggle of the past decade has gotten us? The United States is falling even farther behind other western democracies, some of which acted decades ago to protect workers from bullying.

The Globe article also perpetuates the common misconception that all workplace bullies are sadistic bosses and mean-spirited co-workers. In fact, much of the problem can be attributed to unscrupulous employers that use bullying tactics strategically to expel older workers and workers who  demand  better working conditions or a legal right (i.e., overtime pay). The absence of anti-bullying laws and regulations in the United States leave these bottom-of-the-barrel employers free to cut corners and evade their legal responsibilities. Taxpayers are left to pick up the tab in the form of higher social welfare costs.

The Globe article, like so many others, fails to note that there are many possible approaches to the problem of workplace bullying in addition to the HWB. Continue reading “Solutions Exist to End Workplace Bullying; What is Lacking is the Will to Act”

Wells Fargo Whistle-Blowers Wait for Justice

Among the casualties in the Wells Fargo Bank scandal are many employees who were allegedly bullied and fired for refusing to engage in unethical practices.

What has happened to them since the news faded from the headlines points up a new scandal – the lack of any real protection for workers who refuse to engage in illegal acts or who participate in whistle-blowing.

Many of the Wells Fargo ex-workers’ complaints have been pending with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  for years without action.

Earlier this year, Wells Fargo paid $190 million in fines to federal and state authorities after acknowledging that its employees covertly opened as many as two million checking and credit card accounts without the customers’ authorization.  The bank, which fired 5,300 employees for improper sales tactics over a five-year period, finally changed its practice of requiring workers to meet unrealistic sales goals o  Jan. 1.

Many of the fired workers claim they were terminated because they refused to engage in or complained about Wells Fargo’s unethical practices. At least a dozen current and former Wells Fargo workers filed complaints with OSHA; some date back more than a decade.

OSHA finally took some action last month when it ordered Wells Fargo to rehire one whistle-blower, a wealth manager who was not named but who was fired in 2010 after he reported suspected fraud via Wells Fargo’s ethics hotline. OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to pay the ex-manager $5.4 million in back pay, damages and attorneys’ fees.  Wells Fargo has announced it will fight the ruling. Meanwhile, the whistle-blower. who filed his OSHA complaint in 2011, said he has been unable to find a new job since he was fired. Continue reading “Wells Fargo Whistle-Blowers Wait for Justice”