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New York Times article, Case Study  July 21, 2010

New Laws Target Workplace Bullying,8599,2005358,00.html#ixzz0ujiQ1mZR


Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board




MSNBC Interview:  David Yamada interviews MSNBC host Contessa Brewer about New York State's efforts to pass the Healthy Workplace Bill into law

David Yamada
Read my blog, Minding the Workplace, at:

Healthy Workplace/Bullying Law Passed By State Senate Continues To Garner Support From Organized Labor While Being Attacked By The Buffalo-Niagara Partnership as “Harmful To New York’s Private Sector”

Published Friday, July 9, 2010 10:00 am
by Tom Campbell

(BUFFALO) – While the effort to have a Healthy Workplace/Workplace Bullying Law passed in New York is continuing to move forward – albeit slowly – the potential new state legislation is continuing to garner additional support from Organized Labor, but is also being attacked by the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership, which calls the measure “anti-business” and “harmful to the private sector.”

New York Healthy Workplace Advocates (NYHWA) State Coordinator Michael Schlicht tells the bill was recently passed by the Senate.  However, the bill was tabled by the Assembly in June, and because of the state’s budget problems, Schlicht now says “the bill will be re-introduced in January.”  For the bill to become law, the State Assembly must also pass it, and Schlicht is now calling on those who support the proposed law to personally contact their Assembly representatives and ask they support it.

According to the NYHWA - 1.4 million workers employed across the state continue to try to deal with on-the-job intimidation, mostly from bosses and others in authority. 

Workplace Bullying is described by NYHWA officials as inter-personal mistreatment, harassment and/or psychological violence and directly affects - unbelievably, they say - 1 in 6 American workers.  Approximately two-thirds of all harassment is "status-blind" and legal, and it poses an occupational health hazard.  In addition, too few targeted individuals complain. 

New York's Healthy Workplace/Workplace Bullying Bill, meanwhile, substitutes health-impairment for discrimination, and extends protection to all employees, working for either public or private employers, regardless of protected group status, who seek redress for being subjected to an abusive work environment, Schlicht tells

Once law, it will be unlawful to subject another employee whose malicious conduct sabotages or undermines the targeted person's work performance, and will punish retaliation of the complainant or anyone who helps the complainant.

“We’re working on several issues within the bill,” said Schlicht of the slow process and taking time to point a finger at the private business lobby in New York State that “doesn’t want it.”

In Western New York, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership – a pro-business group that says it represents nearly 2,500 employers – is dead set against the Healthy Workplace Bill.

In a recent e-mail to its membership, the Partnership – which describes itself as an advocate in Western New York, Albany and Washington for “policies and resources to increase private sector investment and jobs and business success” – listed the Healthy Workplace/Workplace Bullying Bill as an “anti-business initiative” that’s “harmful to private sector investment and job creation throughout the state, and particularly in Upstate New York.”

However, that hasn’t stopped Organized Labor from continuing to step up and support the bill.

Labor Unions have been a solid supporter of the bill, Schlicht said, singling out the New York State AFL-CIO, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the United Transportation Union, to name but a few.  In addition, the NAACP has also issued a resolution at the National level seeking to make Workplace Bullying illegal. 

And just recently, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) voiced its support for the bill, Schlicht said, as well as DC 37/AFSCME (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees) – which is described as New York City’s Largest Public Employee Union that represents 125,000 members.

In a released statement from DC 37/AFSCME’s Political Action & Legislation Director Wanda Williams, the Union said:

“This bill, if enacted, would afford workers subjected to workplace abuse the ability to establish a civil cause of action against employers that have done nothing to prevent it.  This legislation would prompt employers to take more seriously the negative and potentially harmful effects of bullying in the workplace.  District Council 37 supports this legislation.  Workplace bullying encompasses extreme verbal abuse, hostile actions, and, in some cases, physical violence. Almost 54 % of the time, the employer did nothing – the bully experienced no consequences. Additionally, in 37% of cases reported, the target of the bullying was retaliated against for complaining.  Those who have reported are often isolated by fellow employees, experience increased bullying, have been suspended from work, or in some cases, are demoted, transferred, or terminated.  An abusive work environment is not conducive to any employer.  The Healthy Workplace Bill provides both legal redress to employees suffering from workplace abuse and legal incentives for employers to work towards bullying prevention methods.  The enactment of such legislation will help to increase workplace productivity, overall employee morale, and the amount of employers taking steps towards safer work environments.  In addition, and as a result, various Health Care costs associated with the treatment of bullied employees will decrease providing for a more competitive state marketplace.  On behalf of our 125,000 members and 50,000 retirees, District Council 37 supports this legislation and urges its passage.” 

NYHWA's Schlicht said the original Healthy Workplace Bill (A5414/S1823) had been amended as A5414A/S1823A to accommodate a change for Labor Unions, which would allow Union Members to utilize their contract provisions against workplace harassment in those instances where the negotiated collective bargaining language is stronger than the Healthy Workplace Bill.  In cases where the negotiated contract language and the Healthy Workplace Bill are equal, a Union Member would have a choice of which option to use, a change NYHWA fully supported. 

According to the NYHWA, serious psychological violence, in sub-lethal and non-physical forms, is said to create an abusive workplace and affects the targeted person's health.  Demonstrable physical or mental health harm can include shame, humiliation, stress, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, reduced immunity to infection, gastrointestinal disorders and hypertension - which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

The bill would require documentation of such impairment by a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist or by competent expert evidence at trial.  Currently, the NYHWA says individual plaintiffs must rely solely on private attorneys as New York State has no enforcement role. 

The bullied employee is directly liable for the unlawful employment practice, the NYHWA says. He or she is the first one to sue.  The employer may be vicariously liable.  However, the bill provides ample opportunities for employers to not be held liable when it exercises reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the abusive conduct, and when negative employment decisions are consistent with legitimate business interests, or the employee's poor performance, illegal or unethical activity.  The bill also seeks to compel employer prevention through internal policies and enforcement.  No new employer regulations are created, the NYHWA adds.  In addition, bullied individuals may accept workers' compensation benefits in lieu of bringing action under this bill.

"When we talked to our elected officials individually, they initially didn't believe us when we told these stories to them and presented them with our information.  This has been a multi-year process to get the bill where it is and we have received a lot of Union support.  We’re proud of what we've accomplished so far," the NYHWA's Schlicht said.

The 43-year-old Schlicht, meanwhile, painfully knows the repercussions of Workplace Bullying himself and is currently on a second leave of absence from his employer. 

"I was bullied on the job and gone on medical leave," Schlicht, who declined to speak in specifics on the advice of his legal counsel, told a few months back.  "I worked for a public employer and suffered psychological harm, including extreme stress, headaches and anxiety.  Unless you are physically assaulted, there's really no legal recourse at this time.  If I had been hit or punched (by this individual), I would be in a better position that I am in today."

(Editor's Note: For more information on the NYHWA, visit or contact NYHWA State Coordinator Michael Schlicht directly at 716-316-4388)

2010 Legislative Summary

S1823 passed the New York State Senate on May 12, 2010! 

A5414A/S1823A– The Healthy Workplace Bill

A6207- Unlawful Workplace Abuse Bill


Did you know...

1.4 million New York Employees are subjected to Workplace Bullying in the state on a regular basis

NAACP - Washington Bureau is the first NATIONAL organization to issue a workplace bullying resolution!  The NAACP proposes to make workplace bullying ILLEGAL

The Public Employees Federation (PEF) has issued a Memorandum of Support for Bills A5414A/S1823A

The Amalgamated Transit Union - Local 1342 -Buffalo, NY  has issued a Memorandum of Support for Bills A5414A/S1823A

The Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 289 -Buffalo, NY  has issued a Memorandum of Support for Bills A5414A/S1823A

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has a Memorandum of Support for Bills A5414A/S1823A

Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA)  has issued a resolution to address workplace bullying via legislation

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has issued two resolutions to address workplace bullying via legislation

Professional Staff Congress (PSC) has issued a resolution to address workplace bullying via legislation

Business and Professional Women of New York State (BPW/NYS) has issued a resolution to address workplace bullying

NYS AFL-CIO - Activing Lobbying to support workplace bullying legislation

United Transportation Union (UTU) - Activing lobbying to support workplace bullying legislation

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes general harassment, a.k.a., bullying as a form of workplace violence

The FBI considers bullying a form or workplace violence

United University Professionals (UUP) has issued a resolution AND a Memorandum of Support for Bill A5414A/S1823A

Mission Statement

The New York Healthy Workplace Advocates is a grassroots organization of citizen lobbyists that seeks to introduce, support and pass legislation via the Healthy Workplace Bill that adequately addresses workplace bullying and psychological violence in the workplace as well as to educate employers and employees on the costs of harboring a workplace bully to create a “win-win” environment where the employer and employee can work together to meet organizational goals.

The Rich Picture

At present time, it is currently legal in the United States for an individual (usually a person in a supervisory role) to impair and/or destroy the physical and psychological well being of an employee, their social support network and career using an employers resources when a person is not a member of a protected status group. Current State and Federal laws only recognize an unlawful employment practice when a person is a member of a “protected status” group such as race, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, martial status, sex age or sexual orientation and the employer or any person acting directly or indirectly as an agent of the employer harasses an employee. Why isn’t workplace bullying covered under current State of Federal law? Because the bully and the target are both members of a protected class, therefore the existing harassment laws are negated and the bully is free to impair the health of another person without ramifications. NYHWA and via the Healthy Workplace Bill seeks to expand current harassment law to make it an unlawful employment practice to subject an employee to an abusive workplace environment regardless of protected status membership or better defined as a “status-blind” harassment protection .

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s Definition of the Phenomenon

...The repeated mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse or,     threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior/actions (verbal and nonverbal forms) or,      work interference -- sabotage -- which prevents work from getting done that is so severe that the mistreatment harms the health of the targeted person -- stress-related physical consequences or psychological/emotional injury -- or leads to economic harm through termination, demotion or denied promotions.

Workplace Bullying:

(A) is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s)

(B) is initiated by bullies who choose targets, timing, place and methods

(C) escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily through coercion, and it

(D) undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself.

Bullying, general workplace harassment, is more prevalent than it’s more famous and illegal special varieties--sexual harassment and racial discrimination. A recent reliable study estimates that approximately 1 in 6 U.S. workers has directly experienced destructive bullying in the past year.  According to a year 2000 scientific sample of State of Michigan residents, Bullying transcends gender. Half of all bullies (58%) are women. Half of all bullying is woman-on-woman. Women comprise 80% of targets. The vast majority of bullies (71%) are bosses. [From WBI research surveys that can be reviewed along with research by others.]

Bullies bully because they can; they do so with impunity. The complex answer to why bullies bully can be reduced to 3 factors:

(A) some workplaces pit worker against worker in zero-sum (cutthroat) competitive work arrangements

(B) Machiavellian types (who live to manipulate others to accomplish their own goals) see the opportunities

(C) in bullying-prone workplaces, employers reward the aggression with promotions and rewards.

Bullies are rarely psychopathic, but are always narcissistic and machiavellian.

Targethood hinges on two characteristics: a desire to cooperate and a non-confrontive interpersonal style. Bullying poses a serious health hazard to Targets by compromising their psychological and physical health, disassembling their social network and risking economic devastation through the loss of their jobs because "employment at will" encourages the bully's whimsical misuse of power. Targets who are most surprised by the baseless cruelty inflicted on them suffer the most severe effects (PTSD) and take the longest time to heal afterwards. Silent, frozen co-workers worsen the problem often by choosing to cut off support, to tacitly or directly join the bully's personal vendetta against the Target. Eventually, the workplace is paralyzed by fear, incapable of productive work, and susceptible to costly downtime with an unhealthy workforce and an increased liability for destructive employment practices.

Unlike cases involving violations of federally protected Civil Rights, bullied individuals in the U.S. and Canada today have few, mostly unsuccessful, avenues for legal redress. Beginning in 2003 in California, the Workplace Bullying Institute-driven Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced in several states. It has not yet become a law.



HWB_logo_affiliate.JPG  New York Coordinator