The Healthy Workplace Act

 

Legal Protection from Abusive Work Environment Should Not Be Limited to Behavior

Grounded in a Protected Status as Required by Anti-Discrimination Statutes

 

How It Harms Workers.  The social and economic well-being of the state is dependent upon healthy and productive employees.  At least one-third of all employees will directly experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment during their working lives, and this form of mistreatment is approximately four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone.

 

Financial Harm.  Workplace bullying interferes with the target's confidence that his or her livelihood is assured.  Broad societal economic crises threaten millions of workers at the same time and impersonally.  Bullying is a laser-focused, personalized economic crisis affecting the target and her or his family.  When bullies have control over the targets' livelihood (as in 72 percent of situations), they have tremendous leverage to cause financial pain.  Single parent workers are the most vulnerable.

 

Controlling bullies can block transfers to a safe job, can make targets so miserable that they quit (constructive discharge), or impair target health to the extent they have to quit to stop the stress campaign of interpersonal destruction.  In the U.S., losing work means losing health insurance.  No job.  Get sicker.  Lose the ability to seek medical help.

 

·         Lost ability to be left alone to do the once "loved job"

·         Forced to transfer from loved job, often a punitive transfer (13%)

·         Constructively discharged without reasonable cause (24%)

·         Target quits to reverse decline in health and sanity (40%)

 

How workplace bullying can lead to homelessness.  Job loss often results from mistreatment. While some find themselves unemployed after being fired for poor work performance or laid off from cutting expenses, many are either forced out or quit from mistreatment.  In fact, 66% of aggrieved employees quit to end the bullying, says The Conference Board Review. (Even if employees don’t quit from bullying, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder alone, bullying can send them to the streets, according to Homeaid.org.)

 

Health Harming.  Workplace bullying is health-endangering: targets suffer from anxiety disorders, hypertension, increased risk of heart disease, digestive problems, clinical depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms.

 

·         Physical Harm.  Stressors, aspects of the work environment and behavior of people working there, can generate stress.  Stress is the biological human response.  It is physiological and real, not just imagined.  Low-level stress may be necessary to compel people to act.  However, severe stress which prevents rational, controlled action is negative. When the “fight or flight” response cannot be acted out, it’s acted within.

 

·         Mental Harm.  Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence.  What makes it psychological is bullying's impact on the person's mental health and sense of well-being.  The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target's identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults.  The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact.  When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target's physical and mental health.

 

What It Costs Businesses.  Workplace bullying is bad for business; it leads to decreased productivity, lower morale, increased absenteeism, and attrition, i.e. high turnover.

 

Social Harm.  Humans are social animals.  We routinely rely on others to make us feel human and connected.  Bullying disrupts groups of co-workers.  Sometimes bullies play divide 'n conquer games, ordering colleagues to not help or communicate with the target.  More common is the group's tendency to informally separate themselves from the target.  Resentment for exposing peers to the target's misery evolves into estrangement and eventual abandonment.  Co-workers don't want to be near the target lest they become the next prey.

 

There is research showing that witnesses suffer from bullying, too.  When the bully is a co-worker, the principal weapon is to withhold approval of human contact and validation.  Targets begin to doubt their sanity.  Family and friends remain supportive for targets longer than co-workers.

 

If the bullying does not stop and the target does not stop obsessing, spouses can tire of the hearing about their partner’s pain, day after day, week after week, month after month, and so on. 

 

Why We Need a Law

Cruelty at work should not be legal.  Employers should not have the right to stomp workers into the ground. 

The Healthy Workplace Act is about human dignity at work. It's about the right to be let alone to do your job

and earn a living — without being bullied or mistreated.

 

The Healthy Workplace Act fills a huge gap in the law.  Right now, it's perfectly legal for a boss to treat a worker with severe cruelty and for the employer to escape responsibility for it.  In fact, when employers are made aware of bullying situations, 60% of the time they either ignore the complaint or make the situation worse.

 

The Healthy Workplace Act is crafted to correct and prevent workplace bullying. Employers put policies and procedures in place and enforce them. If the bullying continues, it becomes legally actionable between the target and the bully. The employer is held harmless. This Act was written by David Yamada, J.D., a Suffolk University Law Professor and is intended to address the most serious cases of  “repeated, health-harming mistreatment that interferes with the flow of work.”

 

Contact:  bullyfreeworkplace.org

 

California Healthy Workplace Advocates http://healthyworkplacebill.org/states/ca/

Carrie A. Clark, M.A., Legislative Campaign Coordinator:  bullyfreeworkplace@gmail.com

Michelle Smith, M.A., Campaign Director: phone (530) 957-3567 info@bullyfreeworkplace.org