The following article was published in Parade on July 18.
According to a joint study by the polling firm Zogby and the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), an employee-advocacy group, nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce is either a victim of or a witness to bullying on the job.
In California, a scientist committed suicide after what she had described as years of mistreatment by an abusive boss. In Indiana, a medical technician sued and was awarded $325,000 in damages after his boss shouted threats at him with clenched fists.
Seventeen states have introduced bills that would enable other victims to sue for damages as well. New York’s version of the legislation stalled in committee last month. Is it timeto make workplace bullying a crime?
The WBI’s Gary Namie defines workplace bullying as “repeated malicious mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or that interferes with work.” It’s already illegal in many states to bully someone based on his or her race, religion, or sexual orientation, but workforce advocates say that stronger “status-blind” laws are needed.
Many employers oppose such laws. “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.”
— Janet Kinosian