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Workplace bullying could become safety violation in Hawaii

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:16 a.m. HST, Feb 26, 2012


Bullying, abuse and verbal harassment in the workplace may cause employees physical and psychological harm.

That’s part of the rationale behind a proposal to make abusive conduct against an employee an occupational safety violation. Victims would be eligible for workers’ compensation.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday will decide whether to send Senate Bill 2487 to the full Senate for approval.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor recently held a hearing on the bill. Two employees testified about the emotional distress they suffered because of an abusive supervisor. Although the employees got a restraining order, the abuse continued for another two years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety defines workplace bullying as intimidation, slandering, social isolation or humiliation by one or more persons against another.

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Manapua_Man wrote:
Unfortunately, supervisors usually have ties to the inner circle leadership (it helped them get the position in the first place). Rather than go after the abuser, the company will typically side against the employee who filed the complaint... maybe even advising him/her to resign. And if the employee don't do so, then he/she can possibly be terminated "at will". Companies have the right to do that. In a tight job market, the employer knows they can get away with pulling off a lot of things over the employee. I see it happen all the time.
on February 26,2012 | 08:29AM
Changalang wrote:
Unless it becomes less expensive for the company to burn the supervisor and do the right thing. Employees should always keep a long paper trail of harassment and non-intervention of superiors despite being notified of the violations. The company always has the deepest pockets and they will take the path of least economic resistance to protect itself. This is good legislation to take the company's decision making out of the purely cost centered conclusion. If a culture of harassment is found to be fostered, encouraged, or ignored by this gov't agency; the implications carry a much more severe weight. It lets the employee without resources have somewhere to cry to without having to invest in an attorney.
on February 26,2012 | 09:01AM
cojef wrote:
Paper trail, document the events, it all helps in defending youreslf for future recourse. It's your word against the supervisor or any orther fellow employee. Your fellow employee may be in his mind vieing for advancement and you may be a competitor, so he harrasses or bullys you. Documentation helps what ever happens.Of course it has to be filed with upper management. They are then on notice.
on February 26,2012 | 09:30AM
Changalang wrote:
That is one style. Another may be to document the failure of the chain of command to properly address issues and the ineffectiveness and bias of the company's HR department. HR is to protect the company; not the middle manager or the employee. The years of documentation themselves as a self defense measure illustrate the environment of harassment that could exist. No worker should EVER see an HR as directed by management without a personal representative; ever. A union rep. does not count either, these days. A long documentation process anchors the belief that one is trying their best to hang onto what sustains their quality of life and being stone walled by the chain of command. It is in fact an illustration of pain and suffering on what could be a very long time line. The truth comes out in the end if people have the bravery to stay the course and use the process to their own advantage. The bigger the company fish the process gets on the hook; the better the chance that senior management will move against the middle manager and not the employee. Compensatory damages can be calculated by wages lost over a projected lifespan of a career, including lack of upward movement compensation.
on February 26,2012 | 10:43AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
In an ideal world, a paper trail would help. However in reality, that will probably just speed up the process for you to get terminated. Often times companies don't want to hear that abusive behavior exists. One of the biggest lies in the work place is when there is an "open door policy" to bring up any issues or concerns. As soon as you come forward with your complaint and paper trail documentation, upper management and HR will see you as a "malcontent troublemaker" that must be let go, asap. Just the way things are.
on February 26,2012 | 01:13PM
Changalang wrote:
If you read the advice carefully, then you will see that I never say to share the paper trail with one's employer and I do say to never go to HR without a personal representative. The real world is limited to how hard someone is willing to fight for the truth and how intelligent that person is at procuring evidence to protect themselves. Being fired for trumped up cause is actually the big payday as the ultimate in retaliation. I have a friend who was the best boss I ever had at a second job. He got hired officially for a position, then un-hired when another applicant from the mainland accepted the position on a change of heart. Provided my friend with a strategy, written testimony to controvert the set up for cause firing from co-workers from upper management, and set up the right legal representation to follow the case. It took a few years, but the settlement came back and my friend got compensation of pay equitable to the position, free higher education training, and a comparable position with the company after the education requirement was completed. There was compensation for pain and suffering and several employees trying to lie for the company initially got let go for lying. Several more senior management and middle management resigned. This was a company that many would fear facing; but David triumphed and Goliath paid an organization changing price. Truth is truth and right is right. People need to remember that sometimes it is worth it. Figuratively speaking, it can be much more advantageous to crack the bully and empty his wallet when he is down; his friends will run away.
on February 26,2012 | 07:48PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
I'm glad things worked out for your friend. It's great that he was willing to stick it out and win... but this is probably an exceptional case. I usually see people get "slammed dunked" by the company over these things. The employers usually know how to "play the game" and manipulate things in their favor over the employee. And after you are terminated and looking around for a new job, you still need them as reference. If you continue to give the company a hard time, negative appraisals of you can easily be fabricated. Cynical sounding, yet true.
on February 26,2012 | 10:38PM
Changalang wrote:
I don't think you are cynical. It is a reality based assessment. However, at will workers are not as hopeless for options as many may think. My other friend's girlfriend was an exempt employee middle manager and was asked for her resignation. She called the same firm and they negotiated the separation because of extenuating circumstances and documented inappropriate actions by her superior. She got a everything in her separation agreement; plus $ 60K in hush money as part of a settlement. 3 months later the Senior VP got demoted even with all the connections and retired in disgrace. All this stuff happens before court. Also, people can sue individual supervisors for damages and attorney fees. If you want to see a bully turn squeamish, then watch him get served with a notice to appear and a quarter million dollar civil lawsuit against the individual. People need a higher resolve to pursue justice, in my humble opinion. Hawaii is a cover up culture, and ripe for justice.
on February 27,2012 | 04:41AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
I agree with you that people should pursue justice in these matters and get their proper compensation settlement. The only downside I see down the road is that you run the risk of getting "blacklisted". Once other companies hear about what you did, they will probably think twice about hiring you. And remember... this is a small island.
on February 27,2012 | 06:04AM
Changalang wrote:
Good point. Black listing should be expected and is probably the biggest compensation factor for the victim. Oftentimes one may be forced to leave the whole industry because of the retaliation and higher education is required to place the victim into a comparable field to get back up to speed on their lifetime earnings equations lost from the violation via their ex-employer. The quality of life a victim gets is highly contingent upon the skill of their legal representation to obtain monetary compensation and justice. Indeed, on a small island it pays to have the right friends and few enemies. This legislation makes it easier for victims to stand up for their rights, in my humble opinion.
on February 27,2012 | 08:57AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Unbelievably stupid idea. This will allow workers to claim they have PTSD from alleged bullying and receive workers' compensation for live. Good way to bankrupt businesses. If workers receive workers' compensation for bullying, what about school students who are bullied? Will they also receive compensation? Where does it stop?
on February 26,2012 | 08:38AM
false wrote:
You know, I didnʻt agree with you at first glance, then started thinking about it. We donʻt need a law for this. Workplace harrassment and violence is already on the books.
on February 26,2012 | 09:56AM
Christopher_murp wrote:
Only for protected classes. This bill will even up the field so that you don't have to be part of a protected class to be covered. Not all bullying is construed to be workplace violence. Harassment is defined by protective classes/situations. If it isn't one of the 16 protected classes, it isn't protected.
on February 27,2012 | 04:03AM
Changalang wrote:
Good summation. A judgement against a company by a gov't safety agency opens the civil court option up for justice against individual offenders and the company. This legislation can change business culture. Another unmentioned protected class are the people who have enough fiscal firepower to fight back. many victims live paycheck to paycheck and have no means to defend themselves. Bravo Ways and Means !
on February 27,2012 | 04:46AM
Oahuan wrote:
Lucky for Oscar he's retired.
on February 26,2012 | 08:39AM
serious wrote:
Any question that this is a liberal/welfare state??? Nobody ever thinks, who's going to pay and enforce this sort of thing! Stupid!
on February 26,2012 | 09:58AM
niimi wrote:
This has to be the most anti-union piece of legislation ever created in modern times.
on February 26,2012 | 10:00AM
bender wrote:
On the contrary, it smacks of unionism.
on February 27,2012 | 04:59AM
niimi wrote:
The best anti-bullying and intimidation measure is a concealed voice recorder or to wear a wireless microphone.
on February 26,2012 | 10:01AM
Changalang wrote:
Very useful for building the documentation of failure to resolve narrative. The one advantage a labelled "problem" employee has is that often times they are kept at the lowest wrung on the ladder, thereby defining the lack of means to be the source of intimidation. Many pea brain management mistakes center on painting the employee as crazy; or manipulating their record to make the employee the aggressor. Time on the job with no powers to retaliate against peers by defined work station shows that the harassed employee spent much time taking the abuse and not losing it. Those power tripping non-manger upward climbers that occupy the sub-management leader positions often tend to be the personality most likely to harass. Those Supervisor assistants have often times no documented training and inspire the Sup to protect their pet; thereby making the environment structured against justice being served for the target of abuse in the workplace even more indefensible by the company. Taped voice recordings can be useful in mediation when a settlement is finally being discussed. $ compensation is the best strategy to promote change in management philosophy of any given company.
on February 26,2012 | 10:54AM
Christopher_murp wrote:
A concealed voice recorder is not admissable in court. You must have the consent of both parties to record a conversation. I've been there and tried that. I had a boss that kept telling me to watch my back and that bad things happen to ...... This is after I turned him in for theft.
on February 27,2012 | 04:06AM
Changalang wrote:
In Hawaii, I believe consent of one person is required when recording; however, it is inadmissible in court. The value of recording is everything before Court. Let's say your boss sends you to HR for manufactured cause. Instead you send your personal representative with the recording. All parties know the inadmissible evidence, but both parties know that the recording will be heard throughout the process. The leverage point is to get HR to burn the middle manager to save the company. The regarding takes the plausible deniability out of the HR reps defenses as the problem escalates through the chain of command. Companies care about $. Make it optimal for them to dump the loser manager, and they will to protect themselves from further exposure.
on February 27,2012 | 04:33AM
967972005 wrote:
Every time this legislature meets it should be a safety violation because they violate the safety of our sanity and wallets.
on February 26,2012 | 01:17PM
Bothrops wrote:
This needs to be carefully thought out or anytime an employee gets reprimanded they will end up filing a harassment charge. Unfortunately just because your supervisor is a jerk doesn't make it harassment.
on February 26,2012 | 06:05PM
suer429 wrote:
I also agree that it needs to be well thought out., Unfortunately there will always be individuals who will abuse or take advantage of our laws but we can't let that deter us from putting legislation into effect that offers protection for individuals who truly are targeted by bullies in the workplace. Because bullying isn't addressed in any current laws, it needs to be included as a carefully, well thought out piece of legislation.
on February 29,2012 | 12:31PM
Christopher_murp wrote:
In addition to the Senate Bill, there is a House Bill. The senate bill includes language such as reasonable person. The house bill doesn't use a reasonable person standard and, based on an accusation w/o conviction, will forcibly remove any and all firearms and ammunition from the accused's possession. Just based on these 2 items, the HB should never get out of committee. Not all bullying/intimidation rises to the level of unrestrained violence and a person's civil rights should not be infringed upon by the government based solely on an accusation that may/may not be substantiated.
on February 27,2012 | 04:17AM
Changalang wrote:
A relevant story is the undercurrent of what is going on in Kauai Police Department now. This is what happens when the big boys try and cover their "A". Everybody underneath them gets smeared with the sh-t rolling downhill. Law and order vs. intimidation rules our Western culture now. The Neanderthals in the workplace need to wise up, adapt, or become extinct.
on February 27,2012 | 05:00AM
bender wrote:
Geez. Don't our lawmaker have more important things to deal with, you know, stuff like the economy. Or do they believe "the matrix" of taxes, fees, borrowing and spending will take care of that problem.
on February 27,2012 | 05:01AM
suer429 wrote:
This is an important issue to deal with. Unless you yourself have been the target of a workplace bully, you have no idea the emotional and/or physical toll it can take on an individual. It's too bad that it is happening in the workplace but because many employers choose to turn a blind eye, clarity via this legislation is needed.
on February 29,2012 | 12:37PM
suer429 wrote:
Visit bullyonline.org /welcome This website from the UK has a wealth of information on workplace bullying. Not all of the information applies to employees in the USA, however these is a significant amount of information meant for both targets and employers. This is a much larger issue than most people realize and until you've been the target of a bully yourself, it can seem quite insignificant. Visit this website and you will surely see the need for new legislation addressing this topic.
on February 29,2012 | 12:50PM
suer429 wrote:
I'd like to know who wrote and introduced SN2487. It was so vague that no one in their right mind would pass it. Come on - this is a serious issue and deserves some thought and concise wording in order to be seriously considered for passage. Is this is all our elected leaders come up with? A crying shame and a waste of time for those that came forward to testify.
on February 29,2012 | 03:36PM
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