STOP WORKPLACE BULLYING!

2015 National Progress on Healthy Workplace Bill

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The following information is taken from http://healthyworkplacebill.org/blog/page/1 and page 2

 

MA Healthy Workplace Bill moves to “Third Reading”

August 11th, 2015

As reported by David Yamada on his blog …

After being reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill has been moved to a procedural stage called “Third Reading,” which means it is now eligible for a full vote by the House of Representatives. As reported by Deb Falzoi on the Facebook page of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates:

BREAKING NEWS: The Healthy Workplace Bill, HB 1771, has been ordered to a Third Reading in the House. This step is the furthest point the bill has gone in Massachusetts in previous sessions, but this session we’ve reached it much earlier in the session. Progress!

Without a doubt this is good news and increases the likelihood for a favorable result during the 2015-16 Massachusetts legislative session.

MA Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee recommends support of Healthy Workplace Bill

The Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, an office appointed by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court “to enhance and protect the rights of persons with mental health concerns in key areas most closely related to their ability to live full and independent lives free of discrimination,” has submitted written testimony in support of the Healthy Workplace Bill. MHLAC senior attorney Susan Fendell, stated in her testimony that “(t)his bill, if passed into law, will profoundly improve people’s daily lives by creating positive and consequently more productive work environments.”

Attorney Fendell’s testimony shared the story of a client with a learning disability who was subjected to severe physical and verbal abuse by a new supervisor. The client filed a disability discrimination claim, but because he was not able to show that the mistreatment was grounded in his disability, he did not prevail. MHLAC offered this story as an example of the gap that needs to be filled by the Healthy Workplace Bill.

MHLAC’s welcomed statement of support highlights the potential power of the Healthy Workplace Bill to safeguard the mental health of all citizens.

Visit the Massachusetts State Page to read the bill.



Bullies at Weatherford College find support in Truth-averse 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

August 3rd, 2015

Workplace bullying is endemic in healthcare and education, including higher education, for reasons discussed elsewhere at the WBI website.

Now comes a story of an inept community college administration, at Weatherford College, unwilling to even consider complaints from a long-time faculty member. Professor Karen Lopez Austen about the abusive conduct she faced in the Athletics Department.

The WBI 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey revealed that most employers deny complaints or justify them. In Austen’s case, they never considered the evidence she had assembled for the Board. An outsider can easily infer that the Administration, led by Kevin Eaton, had decided to not renew Dr. Austen’s contract, despite the legitimacy of her complaint.

So, as was her right, Dr. Austen filed a civil suit claiming sex and ethnicity discrimination along with retaliation for daring to hold the college accountable to operate lawfully and according to internal policies. She probably, like most bullied targets, especially highly educated individuals, expected to find justice in court. We constantly warn targets that justice is rarely found and almost never in court.

Remember, the college administrators refused to hear her complaint. The trial court judge did not allow Dr. Austen her day in court. Judges possess ultimate authority to grant access to their courts.

Judges have two avenues to end cases before they start — dismissal or summary judgement. Targets are typically plaintiffs who sue their employers, the defense. The defense files the motion to dismiss. Dismissal is based on technical details of the case that have not been addressed ensuring that the law cannot relieve the problem — e.g., “including lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or failure to join a necessary party.”

When the defense files a motion for summary judgement, it is saying that if the parties don’t dispute the material facts of the case, then the judge can determine whether the defendant is liable based simply on the pre-trial evidence assembled, if any exists. In the case Austen v. Weatherford College, there was no such agreement. The civil case was all about the disputed facts. The college said nothing happened. Dr. Austen said otherwise. Guess what. The judge in Federal District Court agreed with the college and threw out the case based on summary judgement.

In most cases, financially strapped terminated and unemployed targets go no further. But Dr. Austen filed an appeal with the federal Fifth Circuit. It was no surprise that the Appellate Court upheld (agreed with) the pro-administration ruling of summary judgement. Remember, no entity had yet considered the evidence that plaintiff Austen had put together to prove her complaint of discrimination.

Austen’s attorney, Mark Robinett, at the Austin Texas firm of Brim, Arnett & Robinett. P.C., was shocked by the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling. What he found appalling was that his client’s evidence did not matter. In a general letter to the public, attorney Robinett wrote:

… the Court of Appeals held that her evidence did not matter, that she had failed to present a “prima facie” case or “rebut the legitimate reasons for termination (sic nonrenewal) offered by the college. The court also holds, as if it has some basis for making a fact finding (which is a “no-no” for an appellate court) that “(t)he six serious, documented instances of misconduct from the semester after the settlement agreement were the primary reasons for termination (sic nonrenewal).

Robinett, quoting the appellate court’s ruling stated

What matters is not the truth of the underlying complaints and reports, however, but rather whether the college could legitimately have relied on them in deciding to terminate Austen. The college could do so.

In fact, the college president, Eaton, mis-characterized Dr. Austen’s complaint to the Board. The Board never heard Austen’s perspective.

The injustices Austen faced was compounded by the 5th Circuit with its pro-institutional bias that claimed evidence did not matter. Robinett concluded that the court was doing a trial jury’s job without the benefit of live testimony or assessing the credibility of the Weatherford College administrators.

Read Attorney Robinett’s letter countering the assertion that Dr. Austen was not renewed for just reasons. She never got to tell her side of the story to an impartial court.

Justice in America? 

 

April 27, 2015

Pennsylvania anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill makes 11 bills in 10 states in 2015

Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Cohen, along with seven co-sponsors, introduced HB 1041 on April 21, 2015. PA joins other states — Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota — with versions of the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) that include employer liability for enabling a health-harming abusive work environment. In 20

April 23, 2015

Minnesota adds House bill, companion to Senate bill

Minnesota State Rep. Debra Hilstrom introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill — HF 2228 — on April 16. Co-sponsors soon joined her: Reps. Nelson, Slocum, Fischer, Shultz and Carlson. Both bills, SF 1932 and HF 2228, were referred to committees in their respective chambers. Read the details on the Minnesota State Page.

April 12, 2015

Vermont enters the race to pass first complete anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

For some reason, Vermont lawmakers sponsoring a paid sick leave bill appropriated our the WBI bill name – Healthy Workplace Bill – in 2015. We support paid sick leave, but care most about ending health-harming abuse in the workplace. Now comes Vermont Senate bill S 143 –An act relating to protecting employees from abuse at work. W

April 1, 2015

Utah mandates Abusive Conduct training for state workplaces!

Utah HB 216, sponsored by Rep. Keven Stratton, sailed through the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert. The training mandate law drew its definition of abusive conduct from the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill: “Abusive conduct means verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of an employee to another employee that, based on

March 31, 2015

Comstock’s: Calif mag scrutinizes new workplace bullying law

This Time, It’s Personal Will legislation to protect employees from workplace bullying stifle demanding managers? By Steven Yoder, Comstock’s, March 31, 2015 Carrie Clark, 63, says bullies aren’t confined to playgrounds. Sometimes, they run the whole school.  In 1995, Clark directed an English as a Second Language program in West Sacrame

March 23, 2015

Minnesota is 8th state in 2015 to introduce Healthy Workplace Bill

Sen. Ron Latz a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party introduced SF 1932. Its first reading was today, March 23. SF 1932 is the complete version of the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Minnesota tried the HWB back in 2011, but the bill went nowhere. This 2015 bill was referred to the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Comm

March 19, 2015

Times-Argus: Make workplaces safe from bullies

By Sherill Gilbert, Times-Argus, March 3, 2015 Since 2007, the healthy workplace bill has remained on the committee’s wall. Each new biennium this bill has been re-introduced. In January, Sen. Anthony Pollina has once again sponsored the bill. In the midst of budget issues, the talk of cutting jobs and programs only furthers the need to pass

March 14, 2015

Utah poised to pass law educating state employees about workplace abusive conduct

On March 12, the Utah Senate unanimously passed HB 216 on a vote 24 ayes -0 nays -5 not voting. The bill introduced by House Rep. Keven Stratton and sponsored in the Senate by Todd Weiler, sailed through both House and Senate committees and floor votes in both chambers. The bill becomes law with Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature. Though the HB 21

March 12, 2015

Texas has its first anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill !!!!

Texas state House Rep. Garnet F. Coleman on March 11, 2015 introduced the full version of the WBI anti-abuse Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB). HB 3226, the first-ever introduction in Texas. Texas is the 29th state since 2003 to introduce the HWB. Texas joins Massachusetts and New York with proposed laws that make employers liable for exposing workers t

March 11, 2015

Massachusetts joins 2015-16 legislative fight to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

Mass. State Rep. Ellen Story, a staunch ally of the anti-abuse campaign for the workplace, has introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) for the 2015-16 legislative session. Rep. Story has been involved since 2004! Her latest contribution is House bill H 1771. This is the full version of the bill that carries employer liability for enabling and m Mass. State Rep. Ellen Story, a staunch ally of the anti-abuse campaign for the workplace, has introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) for the 2015-16 legislative session. Rep. Story has been involved since 2004! Her latest contribution is House bill H 1771. This is the full version of the bill that carries employer liability for enabling and maintaining a toxic work environment in which employees can be subjected to health-harming abusive conduct.

Mass. joins New York State making only two states with current bills that hold employers accountable for the psychological safety of the work environment. Of course, the HWB grants good employers an escape from vicarious liability when they voluntarily take steps to prevent and correct abusive conduct. But toothless bills gutted by the state chambers of commerce (and others in the business lobby) share one common element — no employer liability.

The very effective WBI affiliates, theMA Healthy Workplace Advocates, were able to secure 57 co-sponsors. In years past, the group, working in concert with organized labor, NAGE, orchestrated successful committee hearings. Perhaps this year after another hearing, H 1771 can move to a floor vote and beyond … to the Governor’s desk.

We salute our Massachusetts volunteer State Coordinators and Citizen Lobbyists. Stay tuned.

You can track H 1771’s progress at the MA State Page of the HWB website.

Utah takes step toward strong workplace bullying training law

March 4th, 2015

On March 3, 2015, the Utah state House of Representatives passed HB 216 on a floor vote of 58-14 to move to the state Senate for consideration. HB 216, sponsored by Rep. Keven Stratton of Orem, adopts the employee training mandate first made law by California in 2014. However, the Utah bill is an improvement because it specifies what should be included in the training about abusive conduct. The California law gave no guidance to employers. And employers without guidance will skirt the intent of the law to deliver the minimum in a way that is cheapest for them (an online brief overview).

Utah’s HB 216:
• applies to state agencies only
• mandates training of employees AND supervisors
• training to include description and “ramifications” of abusive conduct
• to include resources available to abused workers
• and to cover the internal grievance process details (WBI: to hold abuser accountable)
• also training in Ethical Conduct
• also training in Organizational Leadership with Integrity
• training every other year
• State may allocate funds to develop policies for agencies
• State may support development of agency training

HB 216 is not the full Healthy Workplace Bill, but it is the strongest step that any state has taken to date. WBI State Coordinator Denise Halverson has been involved in every stage of the bill’s evolution and deserves much credit.

Visit the Utah State page at the Healthy Workplace Bill website for details.

 


Virginia is 28th state to introduce the Healthy Workplace Bill

February 19th, 2015

House Delegates Keam and Hope introduced HB 2089 in Jan. 2015, making Virginia the 28th state to introduce the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. We thank the CWA Local 222, Annandale, VA, for their support.

Visit the VA State page for details.

The committee recommended “laying the bill on the table.” Thus it will not leave the House.

 


CT State Coordinator for the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill: Dr. Kathy Hermes

February 12th, 2015

Featured on Waterford, CT community television: Dr. Kathy Hermes. She discusses the bullying-caused suicide of dear friend Marlene Braun and the need for state legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill.

 

 

 


Legislative season update for the Healthy Workplace Bill

February 10th, 2015

The WBI State Coordinators are hard at work meeting with legislative sponsors for the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Here’s a status report. As of Feb. 10 …

• North Dakota became the 27th state to introduce something — HB 1428. That something is a simple paragraph declaring that public sector employers have to address harassment, ostensibly not just the currently illegal variety of discriminatory misdeeds. The bill cleared the House on a 91-0 vote and is on to the Senate for consideration. Visit the ND State page at the HWB website for details.

• Connecticut has a somewhat related bill — SB 432. It creates an “advisory board,” akin to past study groups and task forces that lawmakers use to delay taking any real action. Visit the CT State page at the HWB website for details.

• Utah’s HB 216 is the boldest of the small step bills to date. It requires employers to address the HWB’s definition of health-harming abusive conduct by providing annual training. Better than California’s recently implemented training mandate, Utah would require coverage of not only the definition of the phenomenon, but its effect on worker’s health and a description of what remedies the employer has in effect. Visit the UT State page at the HWB website for details.

• We saved the best for last. New York returns to lead the nation with a complete Healthy Workplace Bill in the Assembly — A 3250. The bill provides legal redress for employees harmed by abusive conduct. It rewards proactive employers who voluntarily protect workers with adequate policies and procedures with a litigation prevention mechanism. It defines the phenomenon and applies to employers in both private and public sectors. Our State Coordinators continue to set the highest bar for comparison. A 3250 has 80 co-sponsors. The Senate companion bill is in the works. Visit the NY State page at the HWB website for details.

Stay tuned for major developments as additional states come on board.

 


North Dakota becomes 27th state to tackle workplace bullying

February 10th, 2015

North Dakota lawmakers, at the urging of the largest public sector union (North Dakota United) in the right-to-work state, introduced HB 1428. The bill simply states that public sector employers must address harassment (implying that the harassment is both unlawful (based on membership in protected status groups) and lawful (ostensibly workplace bullying)). The one-paragraph bill, sponsored by 8 House Representatives and 4 Senators sailed through its House committee and won the floor vote in the House 91-0. It is on its way to the Senate.

Visit the ND State Page for details.

North Dakota is the 27th state to introduce some sort of anti-bullying legislation for the workplace.

 


Connecticut joins new workplace bullying bill lineup in 2015

February 10th, 2015

Connecticut state Sen. Gary Winfield and Rep. Victor Cuevas introduced Senate Bill 432. Though they did not adopt the language contained in the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, SB 432 calls for the creation of an “advisory board” to “explore and address” instances of workplace bullying.

Visit the CT State Page for details.

 


Utah legislators tackle abusive conduct in the workplace with new bill

February 10th, 2015

Utah state Rep. Keven Stratton introduced a training-based mandate version of the Healthy Workplace Bill. It would require annual education by employers on the topic of abusive conduct — its definition, effects, and remedies.

Visit the UT State Page for details.

 


New York re-introduces the Healthy Workplace Bill, 2015-16

February 10th, 2015

New York Healthy Workplace Advocates, lobbyists for the Healthy Workplace Bill, announce that 80 Assemblymembers started the new 2015-16 legislative session by re-committing themselves to the anti-bullying campaign for the workplace. The bill is AB 3250.

Visit the NY State Page to see the details.

 


Training in workplace bullying/abusive conduct is necessary but not sufficient

January 31st, 2015

In 2015, California law mandates that supervisors in all firms with 50 or more employees receive “training” in abusive conduct. The term “abusive conduct” was lifted from the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill language we have been using since 2003 to introduce and pass a comprehensive law against workplace bullying.

Training done right can overcome deficits in skills. Training is the wrong tool to reverse immoral conduct. But training is useful to make everyone aware that misconduct is happening.

Training backfires when it teaches there is a problem and the organization has no procedures in place to deal with the misconduct. It’s clear that only a small (5.5%) of American employers have the will to actually prevent or correct health-harming abusive conduct. No effective state laws have yet been enacted to compel employer compliance. So, few have good policies. Even fewer have the voluntary desire to stop it. No laws; no policies; lazy employers.

When supervisors get trained, in the best possible way — live, interactive, Q&A sessions, employee expectations will rise. Everyone will wonder when and how the bullying will end in their workplace. If employer actions are limited to supervisor training, very little will be done. Employee distrust and disengagement will follow.

Another concern is how will the training be conducted? The new law based on AB 2053, adds training in abusive conduct (which is currently legal) to the requisite training in sexual harassment (which is illegal). The mix will not only confuse employees; most employers don’t know the difference. Workers will be expecting policies for bullying to apply that don’t exist.

It is alarming to find that many employers post online slide shows to educate workers about sexual harassment. It’s a joke that no one takes seriously. A slide show with little content and no interaction. Really, how lazy can employers be. It’s called “compliance.” Given the complexity of bullying’s effect on the entire workplace and the fact that current sex harass trainers and conflict resolution professionals don’t understand bullying, we fear for the future.

In other words, disembodied training can do more harm than good. Beware of premature awareness!

Training should be preceded by a commitment by leadership to stopping bullying. Then, organizational prevalence should be determined. Next, a code or policy or set of behavioral expectations must be created along with procedures to correct confirmed violators. Then, and only then, should training be undertaken.

If you know of, or are, a California employer, contact WBI for help addressing the problem that will comply with the law and help your organization at the same time. We have also produced a 20 min. DVD to introduce Abusive Conduct to organizations.

As state legislatures begin their 2015-16 sessions in VERMONT

By Sherrill Gilbert, Vermont State Coordinator, the Healthy Workplace Campaign

The gavel will again call to order the Senate and the House. They will take an oath to serve the people of Vermont. The issues that impact the lives of Vermonters will once again be on the agendas, some will be re-introduced from the previous biennium. There are bills that were and still are valid and important to our community as a whole and the future of our workers and future generations. Workplace Bullying is controversial, it needs to be a public conversation and not hidden away as it has been the past seven years.

The Healthy Workplace Bill has been in the legislature since 2007, a few individuals decided they did not want this bill to be voted upon in committee nor did they want a public hearing on Bullying in the Workplace. This conversation would mean they would have to acknowledge bullying happens here and for several years they have turned their backs on the workers who have been abused by bullies.

There is a battle being fought in many workplaces here in Vermont in all fourteen counties. We are not alone, every state faces the same issues across America. Like all wars there are casualties. This war is no difference in that there are victims who are left broken, their lives are forever changed. For the bully this would not be enough, they would have to add more suffering and pain for the target, transferring the element of shame, the bully transfers the shame upon the target Stripping Targets of their self-esteem, their dignity and self-confidence publicly can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We are talking about a psychological warfare, no bullets that can be seen or outward bruising.

The summer of 2013 I was part of a committee study lead my Ann M. Noonan Commissioner of the Labor Department. What soon became apparent was that the issue of Bullying in the Workplace was not a new revelation, they did not deny this was indeed present in Vermont. As the conversation continued I realized the conversation became about the liability they would be faced with, the mountain of law suits they would have to deal with. I left with a new reality, since 2007 how many lives would have been spared the pain and suffering and what I felt was fear of the consequences if they were to act politically then economically what would this mean to their careers. Meanwhile the numbers continue to grow and more lives as is the pain and suffering of targets continue to grow larger.

I will be scheduling meetings where I will be talking not only about the Bill itself but also I will be speaking about the impact this has on family members, co-workers, health issues that arise and can lead to death, the psychological Issues, as well. How this impacts the communities economically and socially.

Fifty Seven Million Americans have been impacted by bullying directly or indirectly. The odds are that you know someone/s who has been bullied, a family member or a loved one, or a friend.

If you want to learn more about Workplace Bullying and what you can be part of the solution to stop the Bullying, contact Sherrill at the Vermont State page at the HWB website.