If there really were a “healthy workplace act” in New Jersey, or a “New Jersey workplace bullying law,” we’d be even busier than we are. Well over half of the people who call us — and that’s about 50 individuals a week on average — are complaining about what can properly be called “workplace bullying.”
Workplace bullying is conduct that is hostile, intimidating or abusive, which is intended to belittle, humiliate and abuse the worker, and which produces significant emotional upset, embarrassment and distress as a result. This is conduct that goes beyond harsh discipline, strong expectations, close supervision or motivational tactics. It steps pretty clearly over the line in such a way that most people can agree that they know it when they see it.
Workplace bullying is as emotionally, financially and otherwise as dangerous as any other form of workplace harassment. It can destroy lives, producing medical illness that takes a person out of work, causing that person to rely upon insurance benefits, the public treasury, or unemployment or disability benefits. Not only does this cost the employer, it costs all of us. It costs the State, and it costs the taxpayers. Worse, while the person is collecting benefits from other sources because he or she can no longer work, that worker is not contributing to the tax base.
Workplace bullying is a complete drain on everyone’s resources. It’s an epidemic problem in New Jersey and across the United States. Conservative estimates from the Workplace Bullying Institute state that bullying occurs in 16 to 25 percent of all workplaces. Less conservative estimates put that number at 40 to 50 percent of workplaces.
It sounds like an awful problem, doesn’t it? It sounds like we ought to be doing something about it, doesn’t it? In fact, most people who call us, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, whether or not they voted for our current governor or not, are shocked and appalled that New Jersey doesn’t have an anti-workplace bullying law. Well, we don’t. Senator Linda Greenstein has been trying for years to pass the New Jersey Healthy Workplace Act, a bill that would create a private cause of action for bullied employees, assuming they could meet certain particular and stringent proofs. It’s a good law, and we ought to have it. It wouldn’t apply to anyone except those people who could demonstrate true emotional and medically provable consequences of workplace bullying.
The advantage to such a law would mean that we could help the people who aren’t in the protected classifications you’ll elsewhere find on this website. Right now we can only help the victims of workplace bullying when they can also fit themselves into one of the protected classifications of workplace discrimination or workplace harassment such as bullying related to sexual orientation, disability, age, race, gender, sex, ethnicity, military status, whistleblower status, etc.
Workplace bullying is destructive, costly and frankly, unnecessary and un-American. We have passed laws that address bigotry, refusal to give family leave and refusal to accommodate disability in the workplace, and we’ve tried to eradicate sexism and racism in the workplace. Why can’t we do this?
Although there is not yet a workplace bullying law, per se, we may be able to help. Please call Costello & Mains today at 856-291-0642 (local) or 800-421-0212 (toll-free) or contact us online to discuss your specific situation.