Roundup on workplace bullying and anti-bullying legislation

Workplace bullying and the Healthy Workplace Bill continue to attract interest from the media and professional associations. Here are five pieces that exemplify this trend: on workplace bullying legislation

In a piece posted earlier this year by and the Association of Corporate Counsel, employment attorney Stephanie K. Rawitt assesses the implications of pending workplace bullying legislation:

The US is actually the last of the western democracies to consider laws forbidding workplace bullying.

…Since 2003, 25 states have introduced workplace bullying legislation that would allow workers to sue for harassment, without requiring a showing of discrimination. The proposed legislation was born in 2001 by Suffolk University Professor of Law David Yamada, who drafted the text of the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB).

…Enactment of anti-bullying legislation could very well be one of the biggest things to happen in the world of employment law since the passage of Title VII given its wide-spread applicability to all employees. If anti-bullying laws are to become a reality, state lawmakers will need to carefully craft the statute in an attempt to both protect employees from harmful workplace bullying while also shielding employers from an avalanche of frivolous litigation.

Wall Street Journal on Tennessee public sector bullying law

The piece preceded Tennessee’s enactment of a workplace bullying law that directs a state commission to develop a model anti-bullying policy that can insulate the state’s employers from liability. Adam Rubenfire, writing for the Wall Street Journal, solicited responses to the Tennessee law:

Tennessee approved the Healthy Workplace Act on May 22, a law designed to curb verbal abuse at work by making public-sector employers immune to bullying-related lawsuits if they adopt a policy that complies with the law.

…Dr. [Gary] Namie, a social psychologist, said the Tennessee law doesn’t go far enough.

…(T)he signed law applies only to public-sector employers, and administrators aren’t required to follow guidelines that the law ordered a state commission to draft by March 2015. Instead, they’re incentivized to do so in exchange for immunity from potential lawsuits.

SHRM on global approaches to workplace bullying laws

Putting workplace bullying and the law in an international context, Ellen Pinkos Cobb, a Fellow of the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse created by the Workplace Bullying Institute and the New Workplace Institute, contributed a piece to the Society for Human Resource Management examining the enactment of workplace anti-bullying legislation in other nations:

The legal picture looks different in other parts of the world. Under workplace health and safety legislation, employers in most countries have a duty of care to provide a safe work environment for employees.

…Whether referred to as moral harassment, psychological violence or mobbing, many European countries have enacted laws prohibiting this conduct in the workplace, including Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia and Sweden.

…Canadian provinces such as Ontario have also imposed obligations on employers to protect workers from psychological harassment in the workplace.

…With Australia’s introduction of the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission on Jan. 1, 2014, a worker in Australia who reasonably believes he or she has been bullied at work may apply to the Fair Work Commission and, if an investigation determines that workplace bullying has occurred, be entitled to a remedy. on VitalSmarts workplace bullying study

Naomi Shaven, writing for, references David Maxwell, management consultant and co-founder of VitalSmarts, on the contemporary look of workplace bullying and a new survey done by his firm:

Over the years, he developed a particular interest in workplace bullying – where it was happening, how it was changing, how it affected productivity and efficiency in the office – and this morning, VitalSmarts released a new study on the phenomenon by Maxfield and coauthor Joseph Grenny.

Researchers looked at the responses of 2,283 people, and the results surprised even Maxfield: “96% of respondents say they have experienced workplace bullying.” “89% of those bullies have been at it for more than a year.” “54% have been bullying for more than five years.” “80% of bullies affect five or more people.”

…All too often it is the industry itself that inadvertently fosters bullying. “Silicon Valley has masters of sarcasm and irony,” Maxfield says, observing that cruel jokes can feel like a punch in the gut. He also cited the health care industry and the “intimidating physician” problem.

The Guardian on workplace bullying

Jana Kasperkevic, in a piece for The Guardian, reports on the VitalSmarts study and efforts to enact Healthy Workplace Bill, while observing this about workplace bullying:

Those studies and surveys, when taken together, cast light on the surprising dynamics of bullying – the belittling, reputational attacks, gossip and elbowing that make many modern workplaces unbearable.

Here’s what the studies show: bullying is not random. It has reasons in the bully’s mind, even if those reasons are unfair, skewed, and informed by their personal insecurities. That bodes well for handling bullies, in the workplace or elsewhere, because it means you can address the root causes – and it’s absolutely essential to stand up for yourself, because bullies tend to prey on those they perceive as weak, and they have lasting power in the office. They tend to drive better workers away to remain the last man (or woman) standing, and they tend to turn on not just one person, but several at a time.

6 responses

  1. For the states that have enacted Healthy Workplace legislation, are retroactive cases considered or do they start from the date the legislation is signed into law.

    • Sharon, I’m afraid that legislation, by its nature, is not retroactive. (This is a standard legal principle, not specific to the Healthy Workplace Bill.) Thus, liability begins on the effective date of a new law, looking forward.

      • I didn’t think so but thought I would ask. Hopefully, we can eventually protect everybody from experiencing what we went through. Thank you!

  2. We would like to suggest that the workplace bullying statistics mentioned in this article, indicate that multiple parties may be targeting one or more individuals and is indicative of a larger, hidden social agenda: that socialized bullying has become institutionalized as a relatively new and endemic form of ‘social silent policing’ (also called community mobbing), by use of handheld communications tools (smartphones, smartpads and game controllers and GPS microdevices) that afford near constant covert monitoring of targeted individuals location, action and communications (email, internet traffic and phone/text messages).

    Furthermore, we wish to suggest that this activity is highly coordinated and follows targeted individuals (hereafter known as ‘TIs’) outside of the workplace, into living spaces, vehicles and public and private places such as churches, physicians and dental offices, recreation and retail estalishments.

    These coordinated and highly-scripted organized stalking activities appear to be coherent across not dozens, but thousands of reports logged by the FBI and we think constitute organized criminal activities that can be described as fee-for-service harassment, meant to isolate and impoverish TIs by forcing them out of jobs, keeping them unemployed through blacklisting actions, and robbing them of personal belongings (including vehicles, homes and other property).

    This pattern of highly organized, multi-person harassment by groups has existed for at least two, and possibly as long as 30 years. Participation in these groups has escalated enormously in the past decade, helped along by the development of cheap and highly agile communications devices as a means of instantaneously connecting dozens to hundreds of individuals in ‘flash mob’ activities and the sharing of images and information by cellphones and handheld computers.

    We speculate that the major driver and incentive for participation is economic and that a video-game like interface allows harassing participants to ‘delocalize’ guilt and minimize reprisals when targets are specifically selected for victimization potential and permissiveness in the workplace.

  3. Shout out to David Yamada for his diligence, relentless hard work, and constant communication with not only those who have been vicitimized by bullying but also with the public, many of whom have been clueless as to this fight that has been going on for so many years. Heartfelt thanks to you, David.

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