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Bulletin Winter 2016

Employment LAw Sandra Reiss Bullying In The Workplace Business As Usual Or Bad Business? I can hear the sound of collective sighs as some readers see the title of this article. Workplaces, especially law firms, are not supposed to be gentle, squishy, “pc” places. What is this world coming to? Do we have to be “all polite” and sensitive at work now? Work is supposed to be for grownups who can meet deadlines, client expectations, long hours, etc. The author of this article does not disagree that the workplace can be, and is, tough, stressful and deadline driven, but what happens when this line is crossed and your boss, co-worker or even subordinate’s behavior interferes with your ability to work, your mental or physical well-being, or the business’ bottom line? Many states are introducing legislation, at least as to public sector jobs, seeking to stop bullying in the workplace. Our neighboring state, Tennessee, is one of the first states to pass such legislation. The need for this type of legislation is viewed through the lenses of employee turnover, low productivity, increased employee leaves and bottom floor morale. I. Definition of Bullying In The Workplace According to a survey related to workplace bullying dated February 2014, “27% of Americans have suffered this type of abusive conduct at work and another 21% have witnessed it. Seventy-two percent of Americans are aware that this workplace misconduct is happening.”1 A recent article published by Forbes stated that 75% of employees in the workforce have been affected by bullying either by being a target or witnessing the behavior. “One of the main differences between schoolyard bullying and workplace bullying is that it tends to be less physically harmful and more psychological and verbal in nature.”2 Most definitions of workplace bullying are nearly identical. As stated by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, the stress is on repeated abusive behavior, not simply the one-time death glance or raised voice. Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s). 14 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin Winter 2016
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