Not All Bullies Are in the Schoolyard

SEA Member Legislator And Workgroup Shed Light on Workplace Bullying

Rep. Diane Schuett, a member of SEA's Chapter 1, has sponsored legislation on workplace bullying.

Representative Diane Schuett (D) of Concord has been working with a small SEA workgroup on a piece of legislation that resulted from a Resolution adopted at the SEA’s 2012 Annual Convention. HB 591 is a bill that is relative to an abusive work environment and the health and safety of public employees.”

Marie Morgan, Chapter 44, introduced the Resolution at the SEA Convention and shortly after its adoption, those who were interested in the topic began meeting, researching and discussing the issue.  The work group includes members Anne Keach, Ch. 50, Rep. Schuett, Ch. 1, Brenda Thomas, Ch. 45, and Bruce Vanlandingham, Ch. 3.

“We delved into this issue and found that it is quite widespread and is a problem across the world, really,” said Brenda Thomas. She referred to a number of recent reports on the subject and organizations that are taking this emerging problem on. “I personally believe workplace bullying is in the place where sexual harassment and domestic violence were 20 years ago,” she added. “The issue first began being treated seriously in Europe. They are further along with resolving it than we are.”

When asked for some examples of what constitutes workplace bullying she responded, “any language or behavior that should not be tolerated.” The bullying can take place between co-workers or between supervisors and employees. “Singling someone out and treating them differently than everyone else is a form of bullying.  So is speaking with a raised voice, belittling someone, humiliating someone, or gossiping about someone,” she said.

According to the experts, this form of “adult” bullying leads to loss of productivity in the workplace and increased absenteeism.  It can also lead to the victim of the bullying to seek employment elsewhere. “We are already short-staffed trying to do the work of two or more people, as it is,” said Brenda.  “We can’t afford to be losing capable and experienced workers because they are being bullied. Not providing a friendly work environment is detrimental all the way around.”

Bruce Vanlandingham says he has experienced these negative behaviors. “I’ve experienced these types of behaviors in the workplace and there really is no mechanism in place to deal with them.  This type of disrespect is not easily grievable.  These behaviors are unacceptable and lead to reduced morale and efficiency.  We know that other places are attempting to or have already legislated a similar policy,” he said.

The actual bill language states that “The social and economic well-being of the state of New Hampshire is dependent on healthy and productive employees. The harassment and abuse of employees in the workplace is more prevalent than sexual harassment. Such harassment can inflict serious harm upon targeted employees such as feelings of shame and humiliation, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, impaired immune systems, hypertension, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. Abusive work environments can have serious consequences for employers including reduced employee productivity and morale, higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increases in medical and worker compensation claims… there does not exist in New Hampshire law appropriate pathways to provide adequate relief to employees who have been harmed by abusive work environments.”  You can read the complete bill here.

Prime Sponsor Rep. Schuett has found a number of co-sponsors for the bill.  Rep. Caroletta Alicea (d), Rep. Frank Davis (d) Rep. Susan Emerson(r), Rep. Sylvia Gale (d), Rep. Virginia Irwin (d), Rep. Janice Schmidt (d), and Rep. Alan Turcotte. The bill is being considered by the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee.

There is a hearing scheduled on February 19 at 2:15 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 307.

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