Sunday’s Parade Magazine is running a short feature on the legislative campaign for a workplace bullying law. The online version includes a poll where you can vote to support or oppose legal protections against bullying at work.
An “Emily Post problem”
Of course, there are legitimate concerns that such a law could overreach and serve as a legal micro-manager of the workplace. That’s why I have written the Healthy Workplace Bill — anti-bullying legislation that is the template for bills introduced across the country — in a way that balances the legitimate interests of workers and their employers. Nevertheless, some insist on lobbing unfounded bombs against attempts to address abuse at work, as the Parade piece demonstrates:
“Making a federal or state case over the day-to-day management of any workforce is just plain nuts,” says Victoria Pynchon, an attorney-mediator in Los Angeles. “At best, it’s a jackhammer solution to an Emily Post problem. At worst, it’s a new scheme for extortion.”
She’s referring to the late American etiquette expert, Emily Post, in claiming that bullying is merely a problem of manners.
It’s about abuse, not etiquette
Perhaps Ms. Pynchon has never really sat down with someone who has suffered from depression or PTSD-type symptoms due to brutal, targeted, ongoing bullying at work. Or maybe she is unfamiliar with the tragic phenomenon of bullied workers taking their own lives, as the stories of Jodie Zebell and Brodie Panlock illustrate.
It’s also possible that Ms. Pynchon is not familiar with the details of the Healthy Workplace Bill, which sets a very high threshold for recovery. In order to prevail, an employee has to establish that the behavior was both malicious and harmful to mental or physical health. The bill also includes numerous defenses and provisions to discourage frivolous and marginal claims. In addition, it provides legal incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying, hopefully before behaviors become abusive and disabling. In short, as I have written previously on this blog, it is both “HR-friendly” and anything but a “job killer.”
In any event, we need to stand up to those who dismiss the suffering inflicted by severe workplace bullying when they mischaracterize abuse as bad manners.