Statistics show that workplace bullying affects 1 in 6 American workers. Despite such startling statistics, there is presently no law on the books which protects employees from an abusive work environment. Yet, there may be hope! Since 2006, a New York grassroots organization, New York Healthy Workplace Advocates, has been lobbying New York Congress to pass the “Healthy Workplace Bill.” The Bill can be read in its entirety at http://nyhwa.org/bill.html.
What is the Healthy Workplace Bill or “HWB”? It is a piece of legislation that would protect employees who may be the target of workplace bullying. However, it should be noted that the proposed Bill addresses only the most abusive, health-endangering types of bullying, which must be supported by medical documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.
“Workplace bullying,” although not formally defined, may include verbal, nonverbal, psychological and/or physical abuse, humiliation and intimidation, work interference or exploitation of a known vulnerability by a co-worker, manager, supervisor or the employer itself. Make no mistake, there is presently no law against an employer (i.e., owner, president, CEO, etc.) being verbally and mentally abusive to you, so long as such abuse is not as a result of your race, religion, age (over 40), sex, disability or another right guaranteed by the Constitution. Nevertheless, the proposed Bill would serve to protect the employee from such behavior and punish any resulting retaliation. The Bill would not, however, create a government agency and the state would have no enforcement role. If passed, individual employees would rely solely on private attorneys to assist them in enforcing the rights created under the proposed legislation.
Even though there is presently no law to protect you from workplace bullying, there are several resources available to you, including, web sites, media sources and books, which will assist you gaining a better understanding of workplace bullying, including why it happens, why you may have been targeted and, most significantly, that bullying is NOT about you; it’s about the bully! For more information, go tohttp://nyhwa.org.
New York Healthy Workplace Advocates encourages you to share your story of workplace bullying by sending an email or a letter to its New York Coordinators, who will pass it on to representatives at the New York State Department of Labor. They ask that you include in your story the tactics used to target you, the health issues you have suffered, and the impact on your employment (fired, demoted, workers’ compensation, disability, transferred, quit, etc.). Send your story via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by regular mail to: NYHWA, P.O. Box 43, Amherst, New York 14226.
Finally, if you would like to ask your state Senator and Assembly member to sponsor, support and pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, write or call your state representatives. If you are unsure who your state representatives are, go to http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/ and follow the links for their contact information.