BULLYING: There Is No Place For It In The Workplace!

From the meek child on the playground tormented by a bully, to the workplace where a co-worker or supervisor targets and harasses an employee, there is no place for bullying. The laws are changing to address this, and so too must the policies in the workplace. Any workplace policies should be geared towards defining, identifying and deterring such “abusive conduct” in order to bring an end to bullying in the workplace.

Recently, California has passed a law requiring training in supervisors to prevent “abusive conduct” in the workplace. While actual anti-bullying laws have yet to be enacted, one who is in a protected category (such as age, gender, race, etc.) does have the law on their side. Bullying or targeted misconduct at a person based upon their protected status IS grounds for action under the law. However, this still leaves unprotected those who are bullied but who do not stand in a special category.

As of January 1, 2015, the new law in California for employers with 50 or more employees require anti-bullying as part of the mandated sexual harassment training. California Government Code 12950.1. Regardless, workplace policies must reflect the new legislation effective January 1, 2015 requiring employers with 50 or more employees to train supervisors regarding prevention of abusive conduct:   For purposes of this section, “abusive conduct” means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_2051-2100/ab_2053_bill_20140220_introduced.pdf.

There are now entire organizations, websites and programs dedicated to ending bullying in the workplace such as: http://www.workplacebullying.org/tag/california-healthy-workplace-advocates/, the Workplace Bullying Institute. There are now even many government resources dedicated to ending bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/california.html.

Bullying is not limited to the supervisor-employee relationship. Due to poor interpersonal problems, competition, and expected team collaboration, co-workers are just as likely if not more to be a bully. This can take the form of gossiping, making up rumors, taking credit for others’ work, excluding/ignoring, and teasing through sarcasm. These often covert behaviors make it difficult to have quality work experiences and can often keep one excelling in job performance. Work supports are critical for motivation. Tattling to the boss just makes one look like a complainer and not a problem solver. What is needed is more solution focused communication training at all levels of the hierarchy.

 

Additional resources:

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center:  http://www.pacer.org/bullying/
National Crime Prevention Council:  http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying
Education. com  http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/

For more information related to Employment Law, click the following link: http://www.spitalaw.com/san-diego-employment-law-attorney/

 

Alleged Abusive Caregiver has Troubled Past (Sam Spital)

“NBC News and the Union Tribune reported that a Registered Nurse performing as a caregiver was arrested on multiple criminal charges for physical abuse of a 23 year old patient who is severely autistic. According to a Complaint filed by the District Attorney, the defendant is charged with several counts of willful cruelty to a dependent adult. The RN and his   co-defendant in this case are each being held in County Jail on $1 million bail.Even though the parents trusted the nurse for about two years, they became concerned about two months ago for their fear of serious mistreatment and exploitation of their son when they observed signs of abuse and then installed a video surveillance camera in their home. The tape recorded hundreds of beatings, slaps, kicks, pushing, eye-poking and punching the victim’s head during the parent’s absence over a recent three week period of time.

The parents were interviewed and stated they initially went online at the Board of Registered Nursing web site to find out if there had been any disciplinary action against the RN, and found none before employing him. A current review of the BRN web site reflects the suspect has been licensed since 1983 as an RN and has no prior Board case:http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/WLLQRYNA$LCEV2.QueryView?P_LICENSE_NUMBER=361686&P_LTE_ID=828.  However, this is understandable in that when a nurse seeks to renew a license during the last couple of years, the form only inquires of criminal convictions during the preceding two (2) years.

The UT detailed a criminal history of the nurse dating back to 1969 and which the mother acknowledged she was told by the caretaker he was innocent (it is unclear how much he told the parents, although it appears he was acquitted of second-degree murder of a 13 month old infant who died from a skull fracture while the Defendant was baby-sitting; and there was a 11-1 in favor of conviction, but the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared by the Court). The mother acknowledged she was also told about another case in 2002 that stemmed from several felony counts of animal abuse and neglect in which the defendant pled guilty to one criminal misdemeanor charge and was placed on probation, which she also noted the Defendant told her he took “good care” of his dogs.

Those with severe autism will act out and outbursts and physical aggression are constant and extremely common. These individuals struggle with rigidity and transitions. One could argue caregivers and parents should both be mandated for respite care, continuing education, self-care and psychological testing of the prospective caregiver to help a parent to evaluate how he/she will deal with aggressive behavior. While the focus is often on the individual with autism, there is a definite need for more education for both the parents and caregivers since they are continually under extreme and cumulative stress and often do not use acceptable and appropriate support systems or remedial protocols. Also, requiring limited work hours and frequent breaks can help diffuse the anxiety and strain in dealing with a severely autistic individual. It appears all of the current focus is on early intervention for children and how to parent a child with autism (behavioral interventions, speech intervention, emotional-regulation intervention). There are required courses on how to use behavioral strategies for the child that parents need to take when they are a Regional Center client. However, there are no required classes for both caregivers and parents on self-care, taking frequent and much needed breaks, self-talk, managing depression, managing grief, dealing with constant outbursts and repeated physical aggression, and loss of expectations of a typical child. There is only brief mention about seeking out support groups and offering resources, but there are far too few continuing education courses and workshops that specifically deal with caretakers and parents regarding much needed practices and protocols.

I have handled countless cases and represented both Registered and Vocational Nurses in California who also have had criminal records and then face a denial of licensure, or suspension and revocation of an existing license. In a limited few of these cases there are defenses that can be asserted since the conviction is conclusive. In the vast majority of criminal and administrative law cases, however, the focus I often select is on sentencing and this is where expert testimony and other compelling evidence is propounded to establish mitigation. As both a San Diego criminal defense lawyer and a California Administrative Law attorney, I underscore the extent to which the purposes of a court and Board in exacting a sanction have been and are fulfilled, as follows: (1) to impose a reasonable and appropriate punishment to deter the offender and future individuals from unlawful conduct; (2) retribution, or to penalize the offender so as not to repeat the misconduct; (3) to protect the health and safety of the public from illegal behavior; and (4) rehabilitation, or to get the offender to have remorse and recognition of wrongdoing so that he will not engage in any criminality again.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer