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In the US, Workplace Bullying Waits in the Wings

Sexual harassment and bullying may occur hand in hand, may be the same actor in fact, playing two roles—a costume change away but the same person underneath

Workplace bullying is waiting in the wings, in the shadow of sexual harassment. Bullying is peering out from behind the curtain, on the side of the stage, waiting with mixed emotions: impatient, craving the spotlight he so often feels entitled to, and yet increasingly apprehensive. Unsure of the reception he may receive now as accusers are finally being believed about their sexual harassment. Once he could strut across the stage, a powerful workplace dictator, an abusive boss, a sneaky behind closed doors undermining player, ordering those around him to do as he wished. Smug in his power, he could act, frankly, like an a hole and get away with it. People feared him.

Lately he’s suspecting his employees may turn on him, spilling out years of stories. What if a ‘me too’ movement starts about workplace bullying? Will he be outed? Will anyone care? Before he could rely on silence, on no one willing to take action because of his prominent role in the organization. But now he is not so sure.

It feels like they are on to him. A Los Angeles Times editorial recently called him out, the author opining To end sexual harassment on the job, end workplace bullying.

“Bullies who believe that their whims matter more than other people’s dignity often don’t see why their sexual impulses shouldn’t be just as indulged. Sweden, France and Belgium, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec, have passed anti-workplace bullying laws. Courts in Spain, Germany and Great Britain consider it a violation of other statutes.

The U.S. should follow their lead. Workplace bullying is morally repugnant, bad for business and it seems to correlate closely with sexual harassment. Harvey Weinstein and Fox News head Roger Ailes, for example, were famous for their general cruelty long before we knew how badly they treated women.” [1]:

Recognition washed over him, reading about cruelty, but he pushed it aside and rationalized. He wasn’t breaking any law by bullying his subordinates and co- workers. Workplace bullying, he knows, isn’t illegal in the US. Yet.

Cut to a California law requiring employers with 50 or more employees provide training on “prevention of abusive conduct” along with the sexual harassment training that is already required, at least 2 hours to all supervisory employees, once every 2 years. This training has folded in prevention of abusive conduct, defined as “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.” It “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.” Abusive conduct does not have be tied to a protected characteristic, such as race, age, or gender.

California seems to realize that sexual harassment and abusive conduct may occur hand in hand, may be the same actor in fact, playing two roles—a costume change away but the same person underneath: an abuser ruining workplaces and lives. Like it or not, his time in the harsh glare of the spotlight feels imminent.[2]

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