With the suicides of two bullied high school students here in Massachusetts, the focus on anti-bullying efforts thus far has been on children.
But a group of advocates have been trying to convince state legislators to pass a bill that would give a legal avenue for victims of workplace bullies.
The bill was the subject of a recent State House hearing and members of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development are currently examining it.
“Bullying is much more than incivility or someone losing his temper. It tends to be targeted, repeated and abusive behavior that causes physical and/or psychological harm,” said David Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University who helped author the bill. “Some of the most destructive workplace bullying is of the covert variety, involving attempts to undermine someone's work performance and destroy her reputation.”
Advocates said that up to 59 percent of employees directly experience workplace bullying.
Gregory Sorozan, who works with Yamada and is also the state coordinator for the Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute, said the effort has gained momentum and support over the last year. Last year there were 23 supporters signed up compared to more than 400 this year.
Avenues in the workplace, like human resources personnel, don’t usually work to curb bullying, he said.
“Bullying is perfectly legal, therefore there is no reason for them … to put an end to bullying,” Sorozan said. “Human resource officers … work in the service of protecting of the organization.”
Valerie Cade, the author of “Bully Free at Work,” said bullies grow up, but their characteristics don’t.
“For someone who has bullying behavior, it’s addictive, and they have to keep feeding it,” she said.
Currently, 19 other states are considering similar proposals, according to the State House News Service.