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Tim Haresign, President

Workplace Bullying: Seeking Solutions

Council Staff Representative Debra Davis was a panelist at The National Workplace Bullying Coalition’s conference on Workplace Bullying: Seeking Solutions, April 4, 2014 at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. The conference was a “kick-off” of the Coalition’s national campaign to raise public awareness on workplace bullying, including its debilitating impact on workers and employers alike and the need for laws to protect and empower “targets” of workplace bullies.

Montclair State faculty member Bev Peterson (School of Communications and Media Studies) is a co-founder of the Coalition and co-hosted the conference. She is an award winning documentary film-maker who uses her talents to highlight the need for laws against bullying in the workplace.  Her award winning film “What Killed Kevin” is a provocative statement about how workplace bullying not only impacts the target but also the entire circle of friends and family of the bully. (http://WhatKilledKevin.com).

The Coalition’s goal is to “find solutions that will create respectful workplaces” and the line-up of panelists reflected the group’s thoughtful approach to finding those solutions. The event opened with a video welcome from Congressman Mike Honda (CA), Chair of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus.  Guest presenter Catherine Mattice, founder and president of Civility Partners, LLC is a former human resource specialist who helps organizations end workplace bullying.  She gave a mini-workshop on workplace bullying, offering practical solutions for restoring dignity in the workplace.

Debra Davis was on the first panel titled: Labor & Community Advocates: Working on the Frontlines. She talked about the Council’s efforts to stop workplace bullying and the difficulty of mediating disputes in the absence of negotiated language in our Agreement or anti-bully legislation.  CWA Executive Vice President Gail Richardson reported on a recent victory for CWA judiciary female employees who courageously took on their bully boss — a NJ Superior Court Judge.  With the support of CWA Local 1036, the women prevailed and a complaint against the judge was issued. Click here to read the complaint. The third member of the panel, Lauren Larkin is a community activist from Ridgefield NJ and an appointee to her town’s Anti-Bullying Commission. Lauren proudly talked about her town’s new “bully free zone”.

Opponents of the workplace anti- bullying legislation gave their reasons why they believe legislation is unnecessary. Two management attorneys posited that Workers’ Compensation laws can adequately address the physical and psychological damages that an abusive workplace causes employees. This argument was quickly refuted by a trial attorney on the panel who has to turn away hundreds of workers a year who do not meet the standards for filing a complaint under Workers’ Compensation criteria.

Friend to New Jersey public higher education and the labor community, Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14) was the special guest speaker in the late afternoon plenary session. She presented a Senate and General Assembly Resolution honoring the work of the Coalition. She also is the sponsor of the Healthy Workplace Act, S280 and spoke about her efforts, both past and present, to get anti-bullying legislation passed in New Jersey. All anti-bullying advocates claim that defining the problem is the first step to stopping the problem. The legislation would define an abusive work environment as “one in which an employee is subjected to abusive conduct by the employer, employees of the employer, or contractors of the employer which is severe enough to cause physical or psychological harm to the employee.”

The Council urges you to support Senator Greenstein’s efforts to help put an end to bully bosses in our workplaces. Call your representatives in the State Legislature to ask them to sign on as co-sponsors — even if you have a great work environment, someone else’s health, safety and job security may depend on it.