Management lawyer podcast on workplace bullying

As this blog has noted, American workers do not enjoy direct legal protections against workplace bullying.  However, the possibility of anti-bullying legislation, the potential of liability under current law, and the impact of bullying on morale and productivity have caused management-side employment lawyers to take this problem more seriously.

For example, this podcast featuring attorney Susan Lessack, a partner specializing in employment law at Pepper Hamilton, a major law firm based in Philadelphia, provides a concise (8+ minutes), informed assessment of workplace bullying from a management lawyer’s perspective.  She recommends, among other things, that employers include workplace bullying in their employee policies and handbooks and make clear that bullying won’t be tolerated.  Lessack aptly recognizes that employees “who are treated fairly are less likely to bring claims against their employers.”

To access the podcast:

(Hat tip to my brother, Jeff Yamada)

Happiness on the job index

Time Magazine features a “happiness index of American workers,” which allows readers “to see jobs ordered by worker happiness” in a wide range of fields and vocations.  The underlying stats are drawn from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  Take a look — it’s fun to scroll through the list and compare!


Workplace bullying program in Boston, June 17


Workplace Bullying:

Current Law, Proposed Legislation, and Practical Strategies in the Interim

Massachusetts Bar Association, Luncheon Roundtable

Wednesday, June 17, 2009, noon to 2:00 p.m.

20 West Street, Boston, MA

In these difficult economic times, workplace bullying is a growing problem.  Although Canada has a law prohibiting workplace bullying, there are no such laws in the United States and few legal remedies to cover the myriad situations that arise.  Professor David Yamada of Suffolk University Law School will present his proposed legislation to remedy this gap, which has been introduced as Senate Bill No. 699 in the 2009-10 session of the Massachusetts Legislature.  MIT Ombudsperson Mary Rowe and Harvard University Ombudsman Lydia Cummings, who are highly experienced in addressing both the theory and reality of workplace bullying, will provide practical approaches to this difficult problem.  This program is free and open to members of the public, as well as members of the MBA.  Handouts will be provided.  Lunch will be provided.

Topics Include:

  • What are the common types of workplace bullying?
  • What potential causes of action exist in Massachusetts and what are the standards?
  • How will proposed legislation address the problem without being overbroad?
  • How can employers avert workplace bullying?
  • What procedures should govern the investigation of workplace bullying?
  • What remedies can be used when workplace bullying is established?


David B. Wilson, Esq., Program Chair, Hirsch, Roberts, Weinstein, LLP

Lydia Cummings, Ombudsman, Harvard University

Mary Rowe, PhD, Ombudsperson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David C. Yamada, Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute, Suffolk University Law School

Massachusetts Bar Association sponsoring sections/divisions:

Individual Rights and Responsibilities

Labor and Employment


American Arbitration Association

Labor and Employment Relations Association, Boston Chapter

RSVP to Jean Stevens at

Lawyers as Healers of Employment Disputes, or Not?

Lawyer and dispute resolution specialist Diane Levin, whose Mediation Channel blog ( is on our blogroll, considers whether lawyers heal disputes or simply make things worse:

What happened to make people think the worst of lawyers, to believe that lawyers provoke not resolve conflict? And what are we going to do to change their minds?

This surely is an issue for employment lawyers, who must deal with some of the most difficult and seemingly intractable disputes imaginable.  Some are very good at resolving disputes for their clients in a legally effective and psychologically healthy manner; others are blockheads who lack the legal acumen and emotional intelligence to serve their clients well.

Those who are not familiar with legal education may be stunned to know that the vast majority of law schools do not require their graduates to be exposed to key skills and tasks such as client counseling and negotiation.  Furthermore, because law school admissions decisions are governed largely by collegiate grades and scores on the Law School Admissions Test, applicants who are book smart but people dumb can be admitted based on numbers alone.  So, to answer Diane’s question of “what are we going to do?,” it seems that law school is a good starting place to make necessary changes.

Another source of inspiration and ideas is Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ), which examines how lawyers, law, and legal process serve therapeutic or anti-therapeutic purposes.  I’ve blogged about TJ before and believe this emerging movement has tremendous promise for humanizing the law.  For past posts and links, see

For Diane Levin’s full post:

Website(s) of the Week: Updated Workplace Bullying Institute site

The Workplace Bullying Institute, founded by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, has given its website a substantial facelift, adding a blog and other new features.  For those who are deeply involved in education and advocacy around workplace bullying, it’s worth a visit and a bookmark:

More on the Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act, proposed federal legislation that would facilitate unionization and initial collective bargaining agreements for newly-elected unions, continues to be the proverbial political hot potato in Washington and across the nation.

Courtesy of Workplace Prof blog, here’s the latest:

The political machinations surrounding the proposed Employee Free Choice Act keep getting more and more interesting.  Given the amount of news being released from key senators, it looks like EFCA is getting to the legislative front burner.  Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times has one of the more thorough takes on EFCA’s current prospects.  As is no surprise, we’ve hit compromise stage, with proposals for early voting (in the same vein as a related proposal by Benjamin Sachs (Harvard)) or quicker elections recently coming to the fore.

Full post by Prof. Jeff Hirsch, with plenty of links and comments:

About EFCA in general:

New York Times on women bullying women at work

The Sunday New York Times runs a major feature on women bullying women at work, relying heavily upon the 2007 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby pollsters:

It’s probably no surprise that most of these bullies are men, as a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an advocacy group, makes clear. But a good 40 percent of bullies are women. And at least the male bullies take an egalitarian approach, mowing down men and women pretty much in equal measure. The women appear to prefer their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70 percent of the time.

I’m especially pleased that it reminds us right up front that men are more likely to be bullies, even if female bullies tend to target other women.

Gary Namie (Workplace Bullying Institute), Joel Neuman (SUNY-New Paltz), and Loraleigh Keashly (Wayne State) are among the leading researchers quoted and mentioned in the article.

Full NYT article

For info on the 2007 WBI/Zogby Survey

This is the second time this year the Times has examined this topic.

FOLLOWUP (May 11): The Times piece is provoking strong reactions from the blogosphere, including commentators who are questioning the focus on female bullies when, according to the WBI/Zogby Survey, 6 of 10 tormenters happen to be male.

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