Thursday, July 9, 2009

Workplace Bullying

The January/February 2009 volume of the Municipal Lawyer has a terrific article by Douglas Harvey titled "Bullying: It's Not Just Kid's Stuff." The article discusses that a recently completed workplace survey conducted in the U.S. found that thirty-seven (37%) of American workers have or are being bullied at work. It is surprising to learn that one in three employees face this issue and even more surprising to learn about the toll bullying takes on employees and their employers.

Mr. Harvey's article also states that up to seventy-five (75%) of work-bullying victims have elevated levels of stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of concentration, paranoia, depression, panic attacks, neurological changes, muscular-skeletal and digestive problems, or chronic fatigue. This also causes problems for employers with increased employee absenteeism, turnover, medical claims, decrease in worker productivity, and even lawsuits.

No federal or state laws specifically prohibit workplace bullying (as separate from harassment and discrimination), but to date, twenty-five (25) workplace bullying bills have been introduced in over dozen states. In Europe, several nations already have laws that allow employees to recover for injuries or ailments caused by workplace bullying. In fact, in Great Britain an employee was awarded $1.5 million in damages to recompense for repeated bullying which eventually caused her to be hospitalized as a suicide risk.

Despite any laws on the books, some American courts are sympathetic to employees who are bullied. The Indiana Supreme Court recently upheld a jury verdict of $325,000 against a physician who bullied a subordinate employee.

No comments: