Friday, December 3, 2010

Pass A Connecticut Healthy Workplace Bill: Please Sign the Petition

PLEASE CLIICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION: The Healthy Workplace Bill, written by The Workplace Bullying Institute's affiliated law professor, David Yamada, carries no employer mandate, no fiscal impact for the state requiring state agency engagement, and a high threshold of evidentiary proof to assure that only the most serious and egregious cases become lawsuits. It helps employees who have suffered malicious, intention, health-harming abuse from co-workers or bosses, but rewards good employers with escape from liability if they take proactive steps to prevent an abusive work environment. Only chronically bad employers with repeat offenses will be afraid of this incremental legislation.
Connecticut Healthy Workplace Advocates urges Connecticut legislators and its new governor, Dan Malloy, to support this legislation, which has been introduced in prior years.
Over 200 state legislators of both political parties in 17 states since 2003 have sponsored and co-sponsored the anti-abusive conduct Healthy Workplace Bill. The bill has overwhelming support among voters who work for a living.
Dear Members of the Connecticut General Assembly:
I am signing this petition as a Connecticut constituents who supports a Healthy Workplace Bill. It's time to independently trust your heart, to listen to individuals in your district! If employers have to abuse employees to operate, they should lose their right to conduct business or to serve the pubic. We deserve a healthy, productive, safe working environment.

We desire a healthy workplace bill that contains the following provisions, as outlined by the Workplace Bullying Institute:

Precisely defines an "abusive work environment" -- it is a high standard for misconduct

Requires proof of health harm by licensed health or mental health professionals

Protect conscientious employers from vicarious liability risk when internal correction and prevention mechanisms are in effect

Gives employers the reason to terminate or sanction offenders

Requires plaintiffs to use private attorneys

Plugs the gaps in current state and federal civil rights protections

Provides an avenue for legal redress for health harming cruelty at work

Allows those whose health has been intentionally harmed to sue the bully as an individual

Holds the employer accountable if the employer has taken no action to stop the abusive conduct

Seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits

Compels employers to prevent and correct future instances.

The Healthy Workplace Bill will not

Involve state agencies to enforce any provisions of the law

Incur costs for adopting states

Require plaintiffs to be members of protected status groups (it is "status-blind")

Use the term "workplace bullying"

The Healthy Workplace Bill information can be found at

Thank you for your consideration and concern for the workers of our state and for good employment practices.

[Your name]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New York Senate Passes Bi-Partisan Healthy Workplace Bill; Wall Street Journal Freaks Out!

 Please leave comments on the site of the article.

State Anti-Bully Law Would Let Workers Sue for Nastiness

Comments (16)

By R.M. Schneiderman

Amid the furor over Gov. Paterson’s furlough plan this week, few seemed to notice when the state Senate passed a bipartisan measure on Wednesday that would give workers who have been physically, psychologically or economically abused by their employers the ability to sue in civil court.

But opponents of the law, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are quickly lining up to say the measure’s passage in the state Assembly would result in lots of costly litigation.

One major issue: how to define what is and what isn’t abuse.

“Just because you’re fired doesn’t mean you were abused,” said Stephen Powers, the counsel to State Sen. Thomas Morahan, the bill’s sponsor.

Before filing a suit, a plaintiff would have to notify his or her employer of a pattern of abuse and must give the employer time to address the issue. Workers would also have to prove an employer acted maliciously.

Yet critics say the process of determining abuse can be complicated, and passage could lead to a spike in litigation, especially in New York City.

The bill states that verbal abuse includes derogatory remarks. “Who hasn’t worked in a workplace where there aren’t derogatory remarks?” said Jim Copland, the director of the Center for Legal Policy at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute. “Big corporate law firms, trading floors, these are exceptionally abusive work environments,” he said. “People are yelling, people are cursing, this is what happens.”

In a statement on Friday, the Bloomberg administration expressed opposition to the measure.

Supporters, including labor unions, say that workers currently have little recourse when they’ve been bullied at work. They cite a study by Zogby International and the Workplace Bullying Institute, a Washington State-based nonprofit, that found 37% of all Americans say they have experienced bullying on the job. Of that group, 45% of respondents reported stress-related health problems such as panic attacks and depression.

As it stands, workers in New York can sue their employers and co-workers for discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation.

Similar legislation is pending in 16 other states. If passed here, it would mark the first time a state established a standard, across-the-board civil mechanism for abuse and harassment claims.

“This is a tax on employment that instead of going to the government, it goes to lawyers,” said the Manhattan Institute’s Copland.

But it’s precisely that cost that will curb abusive workplace practices, countered David Yamada, the bill’s author and a professor of law at Suffolk University in Boston.

“The main impact of that bill will be preventive,” he said.

First introduced in 2008, the bill is currently in the labor committee of the state Assembly. Susan John, the committee’s head, says the bill would create a disincentive for companies to relocate to New York and may even lead some to leave the state.

“No other state in the country has a law like this,” she said.

Proponents like Yamada say it’s unlikely one provision would cause businesses to move. If the bill passes, he said, other states would likely follow suit.

Let's all help push NY Assembly Labor Comm Chair Susan John to move the bill.

Here's the page that only requires you check the boxes and fill in your message.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

African American Women, Microaggressions, and Workplace Bullying

These articles were distributed to several people via the Ruthe Boyea Women's Center at CCSU. I think they are very interesting, pertinent articles about the workplace and our understanding of workplace bullying, abusive conduct, and intimidation.

Helping Black Women to Navigate Troubled Waters African American women at predominantly white colleges and universities are parched for support and validation that what they're experiencing is real.
When Christina Davis was in her first year as assistant director of residential life at the predominantly white University of Vermont, a game of Capture the Flag raised problems at a camp for resident assistants (RAs). Capture the Flag can get rough and physical. Afterward a white RA complained that black graduate student Daphne Wells had attacked her.
Davis investigated and concluded that no attack had taken place. The white RA charged favoritism by one African American woman to another and took her complaint higher up. Dr. Stacey Miller, director of residence life and Davis’s supervisor at the time, called them together to discuss the deep difference in perceptions.
Did I intimidate you, or do you feel intimidated by me? The two are not the same. “At the end of the day, I see the world very differently than she does,” Davis told WIHE.

Racism is a permanent part of American life. Microaggressions— subtle insults, sometimes unconscious—are common; 90% of black women say they’ve experienced discrimination, 10% remember being called “nigger” and 69% report having met bias or discrimination based on gender.
Micro-aggressions can leave the recipient wondering if something really happened. “You think you’re going crazy,” Miller said. Not every slight is about race or gender, but many are. Naming your truth brings in the sanity factor.
Wells collected students’ stories about their experiences for her master’s degree research. “Hey, we’re all struggling,” Miller said. She, Davis and Wells discussed how to better support black women to achieve professional success at NASPA annual conference in Chicago in March.
“Girl . . . You in Danger! Navigating the Shark Infested Waters of Student Affairs/Higher Education” is the subtitle of the presentation they put together two years ago, presented twice so far at NASPA and twice at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education.
They’re almost always overwhelmed by the numbers who show up each time they offer it. African American women at predominantly white colleges and universities are parched for support and validation that what they’re experiencing is real.
Today Wells is a doctoral student at Morgan State University MD. Davis is director of student life at Whitman College, Princeton University NJ, and starting a doctoral program at Rutgers. And Miller is still at the University of Vermont, “Big Momma” and mentor to African American students and staff.
Success at what cost?
Wells drives a stick-shift car. When heavy traffic makes her constantly move it back and forth, her arm begins to hurt. It’s similarly exhausting to have to shift behavior from setting to setting, group to group and even minute to minute— conversing naturally in the hallway, then lowering the volume when a white person walks by. Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden popularized the term shifting in their book Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America (HarperCollins 2003).
Behavior changes with context. Most black women report that they’ve shifted to fit in or gain acceptance by white people—changing how they speak, toning down mannerisms and avoiding controversial topics in favor of topics they think interest whites. It’s very tiring. At home you can be relaxed and comfortable, but if you’re large, loud and gregarious you’d better tone it down at work.
“It’s really about making other people comfortable,” Miller said. Many people experience this, including many white women, but it’s especially frequent for black women because of stereotyping. “I’m always seen as intimidating, regardless of how I walk in the room.”
Many also give up parts of themselves to support the success of black men. They downplay their abilities and strengths to make the man look good. Sometimes it results from self-doubt and pressure to fulfill traditional gender roles. Another factor is whether to be a good ally for the sake of all.
“One of you represents all of you,” Davis said. If one African American comes late to a meeting or isn’t prepared, it sets up negative expectations for all. So women have a positive motive to help their men succeed, even if it means not getting the credit. “You’re not always the one in the spotlight but the one doing the work in the background,” she said.
Because they stick out in a mostly white crowd, black women feel pressure to work toward social invisibility, conform and avoid mistakes. To complicate matters, while they’re pushed to become less conspicuous socially, they must struggle to be visible professionally.
They’re likely to be excluded from peer networks and overlooked for promotions. They face less cutthroat competition than in corporate life, but plenty of isolation and lack of support. If they succeed a white man in office, subordinates may question their authority. If there’s another black woman anywhere on campus, everyone confuses the two.
If they’re on faculty, their research subjects may be marginalized. They’re doubly marginalized in student affairs, which is lower than it deserves on the college totem pole. Miller said of student affairs, “We’re not the head on the dog, but we’re not just the tail.”
Unearthly expectations
“Black don’t crack” refers to the tendency of dark skin to wrinkle less with age than light skin. Looking young is a mixed blessing for women in leadership. People question whether you belong in leadership because of how you look.
At age 31, Davis is often mistaken for a student. Last year, new at Whitman College and attending freshman orientation, she was asked if she was a freshman. No, she had to explain, she was the director of student life—the one in charge. “I belong at the big kids’ table,” she said.
Straight white men carry the look of leadership without effort, while black women of equal status and competence struggle for credibility. Miller introduces herself as “Dr.” to prevent pushback. Many studies of unconscious bias confirm that black women need to do more to be considered just as good.
Students of color seek them out. It’s a fine line to figure out how deeply to become engrossed in students’ lives and still maintain an administrative or supervisory role. Rich white kids expect lots of attention because they’re paying high tuition and feel entitled, chewing up more time unless clear boundaries are established early.
While students come to them in droves, they’re isolated and peripheral to colleagues. They get put on lots of committees as token representatives. “We have to work harder. Can we work harder and still have a social life?” Davis asked.
Last on the list
Some sacrifice is good, like taking time to support students or pursue an advanced degree. But factors specific to African American women intensify the constant balancing act—shared by most women and many men—how far to sacrifice self and personal life for professional advancement.
“We have a tendency to work ourselves to the ground,” Miller said. Women tend to take on other people’s needs and put themselves last on the list.
At their workshops at NASPA and NCORE, they offer a toolbox to help African American women deal with these issues in their professional lives. When time allows, they make the sessions participatory and use breakout groups. “It takes on a new life each time we present it. The good value comes from listening to other women’s stories,” Davis said.
They also hope other women of color, white women and men will attend, especially if they supervise black women or work with some as colleagues. Their message to these individuals is that sometimes black women need to be supported a little differently from other women.
Understand their need for mentoring, which they may not always request, and that critical incidents do happen. “When you notice a black woman, understand that her experiences are subtly different from yours,” Miller said.
Toolbox for professional success
Women of color stick out like a sore thumb on a predominantly white campus, so make it the best thumb ever! Their toolbox grows out of their experiences and those of friends and colleagues, as well as ideas emerging from the sessions:
• Recruit mentors. Mentors matter—formal, informal and peer. Take mentoring wherever you can find it. Your mentors don’t have to look like you; they can be anyone with whom you’re comfortable.
• Build and use a network. Your network can offer you day-to-day support and a sounding board when you’re facing larger decisions, like whether to change jobs or career. “It makes you feel like you matter,” Miller said.
• Find allies. Like mentors, they may be women or men of any race or ethnicity. “You will be surprised about the people who will support you if you reach out,” Miller said.
• Seek out professional development. It’s easy to shortchange yourself; take every chance you can get. If tight budgets keep you from traveling to conferences, look for development opportunities on campus.
• Join or form a sisterhood circle. Miller’s is made up of women of color, including Asians and Latinas. Each meeting has a topic—sometimes one like hair, food or family— that wouldn’t safely arise in a wider professional setting.
• Read, read, read. “One of my frustrations has been not having the language to articulate how I’ve been marginalized,” she said. Following the scholarship related to your experiences will help you give voice to what’s happening.
• Build knowledge, skills and awareness to confront critical incidents. When you get ambushed you can get stuck in the moment, unsure of how to respond. Plan out your strategies to address situations such as profiling, and have the courage and conviction to apply them. Sometimes circumstances force you to be the “angry black woman” on campus but often there’s another way to speak up effectively if you look hard enough.
Expected to be the resident black voice on everything, you can educate white colleagues by choosing whether to engage. Unless the topic pulls your heartstrings, you can say, “I don’t know. Why don’t you look that up?” Talk to your supervisor about it too.
• Create outlets and healthy living. Have a life. Read, watch television or do whatever helps you to balance. Too often, the last thing you take care of is you.
Be your authentic self, Davis added. She wears her hair natural with long dreadlocks and a nose ring. “When I enter, my race enters with me,” she said.
You need not be grateful to have a job. If your school doesn’t value you, maybe it’s time to move on. “When the school gets more from you than you get from it, it’s time to go,” Miller said. Someone else will value you.
If you’ve built a record of leadership and now your main role is getting coffee, use your time in that role to build connections and networks for when you leave because you’ll probably have to leave anyway. Teach someone how to get coffee, for after you’re gone.
One NASPA participant chose to progress in her career by moving outside the US, getting her first senior post in the United Arab Emirates. That gave her the credentials for a job back in North America.
Whether you stay or go, remember that you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. Reach out for support. 
·        Bullying on Campus: How to Identify, Prevent, Resolve ItA whopping 70% of targets leave the organization, resulting in costs for turnover plus for workers comp, disability and legal issues. 

Lamont Stallworth  Workplace bullying is a hot topic in higher education, judging by the overfl ow crowd that spilled into the aisles and out the doorway of the panel session on designing and implementing anti-bullying and faculty incivilities programs, held at the CUPA-HR conference in Las Vegas in October.
Surprised by the turnout, presenting organizer Lamont Stallworth asked participants why they had attended. Some had been targets of bullying or had friends who were, and some were HR employees working on active bullying cases.
Stallworth, a professor in the Institute of Human Resources and Employment Relations at Loyola University Chicago, is also founder and chair of the Center for Employment Dispute Resolution in Chicago. The panel also featured Christine Newhall,senior VP of the American Arbitration Association in Boston, and Toni Robinson, ombudsperson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, they discussed how to identify, resolve and prevent bullying from becoming a force on campus.
What is bullying?
“Defining workplace bullying is like defining beauty or pornography,” said Stallworth. “You know it when you see it.” He defines it as “behavior that threatens, intimidates, humiliates or isolates people at work, or undermines their reputation or job performance.” It can range from subtle or unconscious slights to obvious and intentional emotional abuse, and it can be an isolated incident or systematic.
Sometimes it’s the nonverbal cues. “Their words may be fine, but the ‘micro-inequities’ add up,” he said. It’s the little things, the “micro-aggressions” that aren’t in your face but take place behind your back.
And sometimes it’s more blatant hostility—such as cyber bullying, berating or belittling someone, insulting or putting someone down, yelling or cursing, spreading malicious rumors, impeding or sabotaging someone’s work, or delivering excessively harsh job performance criticism.
Isolation is another form of bullying, especially in academe, where employees already work in silos. Detrimental actions include not copying someone on emails, excluding them from meetings, giving them the silent treatment, intentionally leaving the room when someone enters, and failing to return their phone calls or emails.
There are mental and physical health repercussions for targets of bullying. Depression is a frequent result: 30% of targets experience post-traumatic stress disorder. And witnesses of bullying also report psychological distress.
Bullying isn’t always at face value. “How many cases of bullying have underlying issues, such as race, gender or sexual orientation?” asked Stallworth. “People seeing a new face have different expectations. And the problems are primarily with white males.”
Bullying on campus
“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. University politics make me long for the simplicity of the Middle East,” Henry Kissinger once famously joked.
What makes higher education so a ripe for bullying? It starts with the egos. Higher education hires on expertise, so people think they’re experts on everything, said Stallworth. “The game of academe is proving how smart you are.”
Academe is also a very solitary profession, creating an “every person for themselves” culture. And there’s a climate of tolerance; academe tolerates a lot of things others wouldn’t, he said. In addition, faculty members can use students as tools to get at others, such as on dissertation committees.
Why don’t bystanders and witnesses stand up and do something? Not everyone has tenure, and others don’t want to rock the boat or risk becoming targets themselves. Some want the target’s job.
In addition to the psychological effects of marginalization, the economic ramifi cations of bullying are great. It interferes with workplace performance and productivity, strains departments, contributes to a negative culture and climate and increases turnover.
A whopping 70% of targets leave the organization, resulting in costs for turnover plus for workers comp, disability and legal issues. In 2000 the average cost to defend an EEOC case was $96,000. “The most vital organ in the organization’s body is the pocketbook,” said Stallworth. Economic consequences alone might be enough to move a school to action to design and apply policies to prevent and resolve workplace bullying.
Solutions for schools
Early intervention by administrators is fundamental to eradicate bullying. Training deans and chairs on the laws and implications of bullying is crucial, as is training on how to provide empathy for targets.
Leaders need to demand an anti-bullying culture and workplace.
Be proactive through training and developing an organizational anti-bullying policy, including: 
  • Statement of commitment to eliminating bullying
  • Institutional definitions of bullying
  • Duties/accountability of administrators
  • Flexible reporting procedures and communication channels
  • Options on whom to contact: HR, an ombudsperson or a special appointee
  • A procedure for contacts
  • Campus-wide training and information blitz
  • Monitoring
  • • A disciplinary process
  • • Using internal conflict management systems Working with an external arbitrator is one option. 
The American Arbitration Association is a fact-finding organization that offers an independent, neutral thirdparty perspective. “We get the facts so people can start communicating,” said Newhall. It offers different levels of service, from fact-finding to mediating to arbitration. Its mission is to educate workers and employers, and to resolve conflicts.
Installing a university ombudsperson is another tool against bullying. The post offers an independent, confidential, neutral and informal resource for faculty, staff and students to turn to for advice on dealing with problems on campus. Robinson said at MIT they work with anybody and everybody on campus. “We teach people how to say things in a better way, to get better results from people.”
They explore the issues, the stakeholders, the rules and the resources, giving the employee “responsible options” and helping them to weigh the pros and cons. Ombudspeople help them use leverage to get a resolution and advocate for fair process. They’ll even act as “shuttle diplomats” between the target and “the alleged dirty doer,” said Robinson.
The ombudsperson is not a “place of notice,” so everything is off the record. Telling the ombudsperson is not telling the organization. But if someone wants to go that route, the office can provide information on how to do it.
This independent resource is especially helpful because employees don’t always have faith in HR, she said, believing HR acts in the best interest of the organization, not necessarily the employee.
On the national level, the proposed National Employment Dispute Resolution Act (NEDRA) is a policy designed to promote using alternate dispute resolutions early in a bullying situation. It would apply to federal contractors and to organizations receiving federal funds, each of whom would need to have its own organizational-specific policies in place.

Solutions for individuals
If you are a target, start by naming it and legitimizing it.
Then, to bully-proof yourself: 
  • Check your mental and physical health with the professionals.
  • Research your state and federal legal options.
  • Compile data on the economic impact of the bullying.
  • Start a search for a new job.
  • Finally, consult the campus office most appropriate for your situation and decide how to proceed. 
Like in the schoolyard, office bullies go after the weak, the marginalized and the least likely to fight back. But only by standing up to bullies can schools eliminate their negative effect on individual careers and the campus workplace. 

Jacqueline Cobbina-Boivin
Ruthe Boyea Women's Center
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
Telephone: 860-832-1655
Fax Number: 860-832-1677

Ruthe Boyea Women's Center Mission:
The Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center exists to provide resources, to advocate, to inform, and to support personal development. The Center offers a variety of services for and about women. We sponsor educational and cultural programs designed to promote gender equity, knowledge of women’s rights issues, leadership, and independence. We encourage understanding and cooperation among women of varied socio-economic groups, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, races and sexual orientations.

New York Healthy Workplace Advocates Needs Your Help

Dear Healthy Workplace Advocate,

Big news!  The Healthy Workplace Bill was passed in the New York State Senate today!!!  (Now we need the Assembly to do the same!)

If you haven't already done so, please send us a letter detailing your workplace bullying experience or at the very least, us the template letter below to request our state Assemblymembers to pass the bill in their house.  We need your letter ASAP and by May 17, 2010 to show to the leadership in the New York State Assembly to try to get the Healthy Workplace Bill passed into law by the end of June 2010!

Time is of the essence and you can email your letter to us at as well.
If you can, please also ask a few others to send a letter too!

The letter writing campaign in just a short ten days made a tremendous impact on the New York State Senate, now it is time to show the Assembly these letters and yours to get the Healthy Workplace Bill passed! 
Thanks so much (in advance)!
Please send your typed or hand written letter ASAP to:

Elected Representative of the New York State Legislature 
c/o New York Health Workplace Advocates
P.O. Box 43
Amherst, NY 14226

or send via email to:

Thank you!

Please use the template below as a guide to write your letter because we received a request to ask you to include the name of your state senator and your state assemblymember at the beginning of your letter.

May 12, 2010
The New York Legislature
c/o New York Healthy Workplace Advocates
PO Box 43
Amherst, NY 14226

Dear Elected Representative:

My state senator is ____________ _ and my state assemblymember is ____________ , and I am appealing to you in your role as an influential member of the  New York State Legislature to advance and enact into law the Healthy Workplace Bill S1823 / A5414 this legislative session.  The bill addresses workplace bullying.

I have witnessed  bullying in the workplace .  .

Please do everything you can to bring this bill to a vote  this legislative session. 

Thank you.



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Workplace Bullying: How do you handle it?

Today at The TakeAway the topic is, among other things, workplace bullying. Please visit the site and leave a comment about your experience. Here's what they want to know:

School bullying has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but what about bullying at the workplace? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, almost half of all American workers have either suffered workplace bullying themselves or been vicariously distressed by witnessing it. Nine states (including Illinois, New York, and Utah) have recently tried to make workplace bullying a crime, but there are still no federal laws in place to protect workers against bullying. Tomorrow, we're exploring the topic of workplace bullying, and want to knowHave you been bullied at work? If so, how did you handle it?
Do we as adult targets handle our bullying any differently than kids? Is the emotional toll the same, worse, more tolerable because we are older? These are things people need to understand. Bullying is a K-12 problem in most people's eyes, but we know it continues on into the workforce. What are the similarities and differences, in your opinion? 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


On March 26, the Gov't Administrations and Elections Committee met to
consider the HB 5285. The bill passed the Labor Committee unanimously
and was sent to the GAE Committee for further action.
was on GAE’s agenda for their final meeting, but it along with 3 other
bills were not acted on. They didn’t run out of time.  The chairs just
didn’t call it, which means that it is dead at this time.  It is
probably unlikely to be amended to another bill.
The Chairs of GAE need to hear from us. They let this die.
Their office is
Government Administrations and Elections Committee
      Room 2200, Legislative Office Building
      Hartford, CT 06106
      Phone: 860-240-0480
S14 - Slossberg, Gayle S.       Co-Chair 
036 - Spallone, James Field     Co-Chair 
S12 - Meyer, Edward     Vice Chair 
030 - Aresimowicz, Joe 
If we can let the legislators
know that we are unhappy, we may see it pass next year.
Thanks again for all your activities and help in trying to end
legalized harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace.
Kathy Hermes

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What makes a bully?

In 2005, my friend Marlene committed suicide after she was bullied at work. Although it was my first introduction to workplace bullying, and certainly to someone committing suicide because of it, it turns out that this was not an isolated incident. Cultures of fear pervade American workplaces and schools. Bullies can be male or female. They do not necessarily bully everyone; in fact, they choose their targets.

Today, NPR's Talk of the Nation discussed bullying and suicide:

In the latest issue of Time Magazine, there is an article about a Navy captain, a woman, who was such a bully that sailors under her command cheered when they thought she had run her ship aground, because they presumed she'd be fired. The New York Times also ran an article this year called "Backlash" about women bullies in the workplace.

We are still learning about why bullying happens, but that it is a lifelong possibility and that it can be done by men or women and to men or women is clear from the WBI studies.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Unions and Workplace Bullying

Unions: people hate them, unless they love them. I belong to the CSU-AAUP (Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors), a bargaining unit for college professors. There is no benefit I have that I think other workers should be without. To me, the AAUP contract is the kind of document every worker in America should have, tailored to one's particular circumstances. But it does not have a provision on workplace bullying, and frankly, people don't go to the union when they are bullied, because the process is not that helpful. Unions in general need education when it comes to this problem.

I was delighted when President of CSU-AAUP, Dave Walsh, gave me the opportunity to speak to the union council about workplace bullying. Two years ago, when Connecticut's SB 60, a Healthy Workplace Bill, went down without a vote, CSU-AAUP passed a resolution saying they would support any such bill in the future. But this time I spoke more broadly, urging the union to support CT Raised Bill 5285, suggesting the union consider contract language similar to the Massachusetts SEIU/NAGE agreement of 2009, and finally asking them to actively work for a Healthy Workplace Bill. President Walsh sent a letter of support for HB 5285 and the union will discuss these other matters.

I am happy to see my union taking it seriously. All government workers, whether federal or state, are easy targets for bullies. People have a lot invested in jobs like this. I have noticed health care is another professional heavily affected, and one state is proposing a bill related only to health workers. 

The unions who support a Healthy Workplace Bill and workplace bullying legislation include the CT AFL-CIO, the New York State University Teachers, the Professional Staff Congress, and the Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA). CSEA is already educating its union stewards to recognize bullying and is negotiating contracts to include a workplace bullying protections. The Business and Professional Women of New York State also issued a resolution. 

Here is the contract language SEIU/NAGE of Massachusetts passed last year, in part:

The Commonwealth and the Union agree that mutual respect between and among managers, employees, co-workers and supervisors is integral to the efficient conduct of the Commonwealth’s business. Behaviors that contribute to a hostile, humiliating or intimidating work environment, including abusive language or behavior, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 

Such statements of mutual respect should not be controversial. Americans who still have jobs are spending more time at those jobs, usually under increasing pressure and stress these days. Recently, the Workplace Bullying Institute awarded one business a Bullyfree Workplace status for their hard work in creating a culture of respect. We need to see more bullyfree workplaces! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Connecticut's HB 5285 moves forward: why that's good for all of us.

HB 5285AN ACT CONCERNING STATE EMPLOYEES AND VIOLENCE AND BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE was voted out of the Labor Committee on the 9th and yesterday it was sent to Government Administration and Elections Committee.  It passed the Labor Committee on an unanimous vote.  That is a very positive sign. This a bill that mandates that the state receive information about complaints of workplace bullying and abusive conduct when it happens to state workers.

The Act defines workplace bullying as:  "Abusive conduct" means conduct or a single act of a state employee in the workplace that is performed with malice and is unrelated to the state's legitimate interest that a reasonable person would find hostile or offensive considering the severity, nature and frequency of the conduct or the severity and egregiousness of the single act. Abusive conduct includes, but is not limited to, (A) repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; (B) verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating; or (C) sabotaging or undermining a person's work performance; 

The Act therefore largely uses the language recommended by the Workplace Bullying Institute in the Healthy Workplace Bill

While many in the movement are eager for a Healthy Workplace Bill to pass, what Connecticut is proposing--to study the problem--is a first step in establishing what many of us know firsthand: that bullying is a rampant workplace problem. A WBI-Zogby Poll found that 37% of workers reported being bullied at work. Add to that the number of people who have been witnesses to bullying, for whom the work environment also becomes stressful, and about half of all workers are affected by the problem. 

People just want to do their jobs. I was reading a book Employment Law in a Nutshell, 3d (West Nutshell) (Paperback) by Robert N. Covington, Ch. 5, pp. 326 and 327. I was very surprised to come across a discussion of bullying, and even the question of what happens when an employee commits suicide over bullying. The subject came up in a discussion of stress, but in one case, Swiss Company, Inc. v. Dept. of Industry, Labor, and Human Relations, 72 Wisc. 2d 46, 240 N.W. 2d 128 (Wisc. 1976) there was recovery when a bullying supervisor berated and harshly criticized the claimant, who had been working long hours and was under a great deal of stress. People in the 1970s were fighting for things like comparable worth legislation, equal pay for equal work, and so to find this first raised in the 1970s shouldn't be so surprising. But in this employment compensation claim, we see the nascent beginnings of what is now a movement.

The movement is about fairness. Contrary to some claims by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the workplace bullying movement is not anti-business. We value our jobs or we would not be fighting so hard to make the workplaces where we work healthy ones. HB 5285 does not affect private business. It measures instances of abuse of state employees. This bill will ultimately help make our work places, private and public, safer, healthier and more productive just by recognizing the problem.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

CCSU Professors Speak Out for Solidarity in Confronting State Budget Crisis

Statement on the Connecticut Budget Crisis, March 1, 2010

On February 22, 2010, CSU-AAUP President David Walsh sent a letter alerting CSU-AAUP union members of the gravity of the State of Connecticut’s budget deficit and the likelihood that some CSU departments, programs, and employees will be terminated with the next biennial budget.  According to President Walsh’s letter, Connecticut has already borrowed $1.2 billion to bridge its budget shortfall and estimates predict the deficit will grow another billion dollars by June 2010 and an additional three to four billion dollars during fiscal year 2011-2012. 
These budget deficits are not the fault of university employees, nor the fault of students.  Instead, they represent a failure of our nation’s economic and political system fed by an economy of low wages and high debt, foreign wars, a lack of stable, well-paid jobs, and long-term problems in the nation’s health care and retirement systems.   In this is moment of crisis, we cannot be bystanders as administrators and politicians undermine our university’s mission.   Higher education is essential to a vibrant economy and we must ensure that Connecticut residents have access to affordable, quality education.  The state’s economy will not be fixed by adding university employees to the ranks of the unemployed, but eroding our education system puts everyone’s future at risk.  

As faculty we have fought for shared governance, recognizing our unique insight into what it takes to create a quality education.  In keeping with this fundamental principle, we insist that:
  • ·       There can be no cuts in education or student services. The excellence of our university must be maintained.
  • ·       All university budgetary matters must be made transparent; faculty, staff, and students must participate in all decisions concerning cost saving measures. 
  • ·       There can be no faculty or staff layoffs.  Administrators must not be given preferential treatment in terms of pay raises or retention bonuses.  The retention of our fine faculty and staff must be the first priority.
  • ·       Affirmative action must be defended.  Reduced budgets cannot be used to undermine the creation of a diversity faculty, staff, and student body. 
  • ·       The budget deficit must not be passed on to our students. We stand against increases in tuition and fees, and any measures that compromise the quality and affordability of our students’ education. 

We also recognize the power of democratically-organized unions to enact positive social change.  This will be accomplished through broad discussion and decision-making among the membership.  Even though budget cuts have already increased our workload, we must make room in our professional lives for union participation and we call on our union representatives to facilitate open discussion through regular and meaningful meetings in which members make decisions together.  Finally, we recognize the importance of standing in solidarity with CSU staff, students, and other unions, including, but not limited to those within the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.  We call upon staff, students, and other unions to enter the discussion that we begin with his statement and make suggestions as to how best to meet this crisis.  Together, we can move beyond legislative politics and build a powerful movement, just as the faculty and students of the University of California have begun to do.  


Briann Greenfield, Chair, CCSUProfs4Progress 
Steven Adair
Mike Alewitz
Sheri Fafunwa-Ndibe
Kathy Hermes
Jeffry McGowan
Serafín Méndez-Méndez
Rachael Siporin
Robert Wolff


Saturday, March 6, 2010

June Baker Higgins Gender Studies 20th Anniversary Conference, May 7-9, 2010

Gail Collins, a columnist from the New York Times, will be our Keynote Speaker on May 7 and Rachel Lloyd, a sexually exploited teenager who later founded Girls Education and Mentoring Service (GEMS), will present at noon on May 8.

The Central Connecticut State University Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program 20th Anniversary Conference & Celebration welcomes proposals for papers or panels from faculty, independent scholars, graduate students, and senior undergraduate students (supervised by professors) for the June Baker Higgins Gender Studies Conference May 7-9, 2010. This year’s theme is on facets of “Being 20,” in keeping with CCSU’s celebration of twenty years of having a Women’s Studies (now Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies) program! 

We encourage innovative and creative ways of approaching the theme. Examples of topics may include: struggles, economics, injustices, globalization, changes, aging, rights, conflicts, innovations, cultures, concerns, laws, sexualities, creative works, bodies, solutions, movements, strategies, leaders, or age, and some aspect of “Being 20.”   Topics that do not fit within the theme of the conference, but which are of general relevance to Women, Gender and/or Sexuality are welcomed, but preference will be given to panels and papers that address this year’s theme.  Abstracts for papers or panels, poster sessions, or short films may be submitted immediately to
Cynthia Pope at An electronic submission form is available at: Submissions should be received no later than April 2, 2010.

No registration fee is required, as it is part of our feminist mission to make the conference accessible and affordable.

Registration forms are available online and anyone may attend at no cost. Banquet reservations do require payment. Anyone interested in advertising in our conference program may contact Carolyn Fallahi at All advertising proceeds will help fund the June Baker Higgins Scholarship at Central Connecticut State University.

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