Enterprise Software

Fighting the bully in the workplace


In my years interacting with members of TechRepublic, I heard quite a few stories about dysfunctional workplaces. I've been surprised by some of the stories about how abusive some bosses and co-workers can be. I see a lot of anecdotal evidence of this but there's not much statistical evidence out there. That's because workplace bullying often goes unreported when those on the receiving end do not belong to a protected minority group. So what's a person to do if he's the whipping post for an equal-opportunity workplace bully?

Maybe the Healthy Workplace Bill is a beginning. This is a state bill that "substitutes health-impairment for discrimination, and extends protection to all employees, working for either public or private employers, regardless of protected group status, who seek redress for being subjected to an abusive work environment."

Now if you're a cynical person, the first thing you think of when you hear about something like this is what a coup it will be for those in the legal profession. You can imagine how broadly "abuse" can be defined and the myriad ways some people could define "psychological damage." But the bill's advocates claim that the bullying employee is directly liable for the unlawful employment practice and that the employer (the one with the deep pockets) may be vicariously liable.

On the site bullbusters.com, I found the following summary which seeks to clarify what factors have to be in place for a bullying lawsuit to move forward:

  • Addresses only the most abusive, health-endangering circumstances
  • Does not mandate "feeling good" principles, health must be damaged!
  • No new government bureaucracy; costs the state nothing
  • Good employers with policies that honestly enforce them have nothing to fear
  • The small penalties will discourage attorneys from taking weak cases — low chance of frivolous cases

Since 2003, 13 states have introduced the bill but none have passed it.

For more on the bill and workplace bullying in general, go to this site.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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