Preventing workplace bullying: Start with training and a good policy

by Sue Woods

Generally, workplace bullying can be defined as repeated unreasonable actions directed toward an employee or a group of employees that are intended to intimidate, degrade, or humiliate. In some cases, workplace bullying may involve misuse or abuse of power by supervisors or managers. In other cases, it may involve a group of coworkers targeting another worker, which is frequently referred to as “mobbing.” Bullying on the job meeting

Legislative bills that propose to address workplace bullying often contain a more detailed definition of unacceptable conduct. For example, in California’s antibullying training law, “abusive conduct” is defined as the conduct of an employer or an employee, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to the employer’s legitimate business interests. It could include verbal abuse, verbal or physical conduct that is intimidating, threatening, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. Proposed bills in other states have differing definitions of abusive workplace conduct.

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Training too weird even for Austin

by Mark R. Flora

Perhaps you have already heard about the recent firestorm created during a diversity training session for city employees in, of all places, Austin, the capital of political correctness. The training was actually held in March, but the uproar followed an article in the Statesman in May. The hue and cry was loud enough to be heard in Washington, D.C., after the Washington Post weighed in. How can diversity training, which is good, go so bad? Business training

By way of background, I should explain that the Austin City Council now has a female majority for the first time, which may well have been the impetus for the training session. City spokesman David Green said the intent of the training session was to celebrate the female commissioners’ success stories and provide an opportunity to learn from the women themselves. As we all know, however, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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We’ve come a long way, maybe

by Susan G. Fentin

I’m old enough to remember a time when sexual harassment wasn’t illegal, in the era before the courts began to apply Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to such claims. I have vivid memories of getting a “back rub” from a manager in the small office where I was doing temporary secretarial work during a college vacation. It was, frankly, creepy, but I had no real recourse. I needed the job, and from a practical standpoint, there really wasn’t anyone I could complain to. From a legal standpoint, sexual harassment didn’t become actionable under Title VII until 1977, and it wasn’t until 1988 that the courts began to consider “hostile work environment” a valid claim of sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment

Now, of course, hostile work environment is a term that covers all forms of harassment focused on or because of an individual’s membership in a protected class, and it’s also used by employees who are merely objecting to a boss they believe is harsh or unreasonable or a workplace environment that’s toxic because employees just don’t get along. But you would think employers have learned that sexual conduct in the workplace is simply too risky to tolerate.

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Recent events confirm racists, misogynists are not extinct

by Dinita L. James

Last July, the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The focus rightly was on how far we have come as a society in eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.

Close on the heels of that celebration, however, recent events provide some distressing reminders that bigotry is not dead.

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It’s time to get on the winning side of the sexual orientation issue

Not long ago, I heard a story about George Wallace, Alabama’s governor in the 1960s and one of the leading advocates for Jim Crow laws and segregation. He is well-known for his “stand at the schoolhouse door,” where he attempted to prohibit two black students from registering for classes at the University of Alabama. The story was told through the eyes of his daughter, who is now 63 with a family of her own. She talked about trying to overcome her father’s reputation and how she now works to promote racial healing. Gay Pride Flags

I felt sad for Wallace’s daughter, who acknowledged her father’s faults and is trying to change her family’s legacy. I was dumbfounded at the way someone could hold onto and promote an idea that denied individuals equality and had been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court years before.

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The business case for diversity

by Kimberly Williams

Recently, my employer, Baystate Health, organized a regional Diversity and Inclusion Conference. While promoting the event on social media, I shared a video clip of one of the conference presenters who was making the “business case” for diversity. One of my Facebook friends asked, “Why are we still making a business case for diversity in 2014? Why is there a need?”  Light Bulb - Switched On

I was prepared for the question—as a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I hear it quite often. The question isn’t always framed exactly the same way. Variations I’ve heard along the way include, “Why are we still focused on the negative; things that make us different. Shouldn’t we be talking about our similarities?” To be honest, those are fair questions.

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Which comes first—the Apple or the egg?

by Mark I. Schickman

Gender discrimination has been illegal for barely 50 years. Soon after the nondiscrimination law was passed, companies had to figure out how to address the gender gap and remedy the dearth of women in the workforce—especially in high-level career positions. Providing liberal leave benefits, on-site child care, women’s mentoring programs, and expanded recruitment channels were all typical steps advanced companies would take.  Freezing Eggs

A constant question has been whether a woman can lead both a business and a family. Would she have to choose between a promotional schedule and a biological clock? Or would she opt for a part-time “mommy track”—taking time off to have a child and a reduced schedule to raise it while being relegated to a lower rung on the corporate ladder?

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What does the immigration executive action mean for employers?

by Christine D. Mehfoud

Whether the president’s recent series of immigration-related executive actions will survive potential legal challenges and congressional action remains to be seen. For now, set aside your political views (while I love a good political debate, this space is for practical business implications), and let’s focus on how the executive actions will affect employers.  Immigration reform

What does the executive action include?

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Sign of the times: Jill Abramson, the New York Times, and pay equity

by Mark I. Schickman

The New York Times is the second largest newspaper in America, with about two million papers sold each day. It’s also the liberal beacon of American journalism, with solid-gold progressive credentials. Still, it took the paper 160 years to hire Jill Abramson as its first female executive editor in 2011.  Pay Inequality

In May, Abramson made the surprise announcement that she was leaving that post. Neither she nor the Times expanded on that announcement, except to say that she would be replaced by Dean Baquet, the first African American to take the position. Applying the usual termination formula, neither employer nor employee would discuss the matter, hoping the issue would pass with little comment. You would think the New York Times would be able to manage the news. Not so.

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What employers need to know about immigration reform

by Christine D. Mehfoud

Turn on the news. Open the paper. Click on cnn.com. For months, if not years, immigration has been one of the top stories. Specifically, immigration reform: Will immigration reform happen? When will it happen? And what will it look like if it does happen?

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, the immigration reform debate will certainly intensify. And now the White House is joining the conversation, with President Barack Obama threatening to take matters into his own hands. Regardless of their political affiliation or position on immigration reform, employers need to understand what immigration reform means for their day-to-day operations.  Immigration Reform

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