Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, February 01, 2010

Anti-bullying Legislation for Schools, An Inevitable Tie


David Yamada, who blogs at Minding the Workplace, is a tireless crusader for anti-bullying legislation. He is the author of the model Healthy Workplace Bill and lately has been working in his home state to see if he can shepherd it through the Massachusetts' legislature. Last Wednesday there was a hearing on the bill.

In a follow up report, David posts today about a question  he received from a state legislator about the connections between bullying in schools and bullying in the workplace. You can see his comments at Workplace bullying and school bullying: Ties and parallels.

Although he has some interesting points about behaviors, he doesn't even mention the most significant connection in my mind. I have long been of the view that legislation against bullying in the schools is laying the foundation for the ultimate success of anti-bullying legislation in the workplace.

Although there are obvious differences between school and the workplace, and perhaps more importantly between students and employees, once it has become accepted that the appropriate tool for controlling bullying behavior is legislation, I am afraid it is only a matter of time before some state decides if it works for the schools, it will also work on the job. How far are we on the school front? According to Bully Police USA, 41 states already have legislation dealing with bullying in the schools.

As I have said repeatedly, it is not that I in any way condone bullying type behavior.  I don't. It is both wrong and bad business. However, it is my strong belief that litigation is too blunt an instrument to deal with behavior that all concede is measured on a continuum from that which is to be expected when humans are involved to that which should be found unacceptable.

Our legal system is good, but my experience in the workplace is that it will be asking far too much for it to try to deal efficiently with a cause of action for bullying, no matter how well crafted the legislation.

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Comments:
Agreed!..who doesn't know "bullying" is wrong? Any HR professional must stop it immediately. It can be done by policy and good judgment.
 
HR and good judgment together in a phrase is an oxymoron. HR has neither the power, skill or willingness to advocate for a policy that would curtail executive behaviors.
 
Gary, given your work challenging employers to stop workplace bullying, it doesn't seem like a good idea to alienate what would appear to be your target audience. As an HR professional who cares about our employees and out business environment, I rely on my good judgment and that of my peers to encourage positive interactions at work. I find it not offensive, just kinda dumb and poor marketing, that you would choose to be so dismissive and insulting of HR.
 
janimal,

HR has NEVER been the department or group responsible for an employer willing to tackle workplace bullying. This is directly from our consulting practice. It's top down or not at all (in the US). Bullying is a leadership/executive responsibility, not an HR issue. Without laws compelling compliance, HR has little to no role. From the cause side of this issue, we have empirical as well as anecdotal data about HR's failure to act. Thus, the sweeping generalization seems to have a factual basis.
 
Hello, most recently, i experienced giving the intake notes over the phone, to an offsite, contracted HR firm representative. It took me one month exact to get a copy of the typed up intake notes.Finally received a copy after the investigation was over. Discovery: Do you know,the finished typed intake notes, was sanitized to the point, when the investigation was over, the employer was innocent of anywrong doing. I understand about supporting your client, right or wrong, for that paycheck you get,but how extreme is HR will to go? Everything "bubbles up".
 
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