Work place bullying has become rampant because it is driven by a buyer’s market in jobs. In my professional practice of supporting clients to plan their retirement I am increasingly experiencing clients and prospects who talk about work place bullying scenarios When I ask whether they are referring to sexual harassment, age discrimination or cause based performance issues, they more frequently refer to being abused by practical jokes, harassment, intimidation and threats of job loss and downsizing. I have clients who have lost their jobs-or been forced to quit- due to a narcissistic manager who has enjoyed virtually unrestricted reign in leveraging the threats of job loss or career damage. No longer “aligned with our culture:, or no longer” part of our organization’s vision” are the two most frequent documented claims cited for termination. These have become socially acceptable standards and convenient covers of unacceptable abusive behavior in the work place. Its shocking to know that these statements are delivered in final interviews and embedded in employee files with impunity by those that deliver them as excuses for ulterior motives.
Gary Namie, Director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Washington contrasted the difference between tough, accountable management and bullying by defining it as “…bullying is a level of misery that falls on a disproportionately few” Certainly, none of us have to be sociologists and economists to understand the harm that work place bullying can cause. Morale issues, organizational sabotage and productivity declines would be a good start for a list of rational reasons to support a call for legislation to curb this serious problem.
The current workplace related legislation embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Equal Pay Act of 1963, The Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA)of 1967, Title’s I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA), Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Genetic Non Discrimination Act of 1998 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 are all so narrowly defined in scope and purpose that they abjectly fail to address workplace related bullying.
In Massachusetts the spectre of infringement on dignity by employers is coming to a head with legislation written by a Suffolk University Law professor David Yamada. Hopefully, it will also come to an end . House bill 2310 and Senate bill 916- The Healthy Workplace Bill – was the subject of a State House hearing and discussions with members of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development this past summer.
The basic premise of the bill is to create a legal claim for bullying victims who can establish that they were subjected to malicious, health-harming behavior. It also provides defenses for employers who act preventively and responsively with regard to bullying.
Considering that this nation endured hard fought conditions that ushered in one of the greatest surges in human dignity legislation starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I think it is time for the unchecked excesses of employers and business owners, empowered with the econonomic leverage of job rationing to be held accountable for their transgressions