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OPINION: Stop Workplace Bullying Now


by Sherrill Gilbert, State coordinator for the Healthy Workplace Bill


The fight for human rights continues. There is a war going on and like every war there are casualties. In this country the numbers continue to grow each day. Workers in the workplace are targeted. The numbers of families that have been impacted by the bullying of their loved ones, the numbers would be astronomical, the impact on the economy could also not be able to measure in dollars and cents, like a stone thrown into the still waters the ripple created by bullying spreads outwards way beyond its boundaries, the cost of health care rises as does the demands of health care needs. The immune system is comprised by bullying. Bullying Is Abuse! It is estimated that 45 percent of targets are impacted physically, psychologically, and financially.

This war does not take place on a battlefield, nor are the attackers seen. We do not have the visual of broken bodies, there are no guns shot wounds or blood shed visible to the human eyes. This is a psychological war that is also called the “silent epidemic”. Nationally 157 million workers are impacted by bullying in workplaces.

The Healthy Workplace Bill grassroots movement started in the late 1990’s by Dr. Gary Namie and his wife, Ruth Namie, both PhD’s in psychology, now encompasses 38 states with coordinators like myself. The Bullying Institute.org would be started after Mrs. Namie had been targeted at the University in California where she worked. Ruth Namie would experience PTSD resulting from the psychological violence of her bully.

Vermont has had a bill introduced first in 2007 through  2015. This is the ninth year that this bill has remained attached to the wall in the legislature. The Senate bill S143 has again been altered from the original bill. Vital language has once again been omitted. The bill in its present state will be like the road in Alaska that Sarah Palin had talked about in her campaign for presidency that went nowhere.

Complaints are filed with the attorney general’s office to be investigated.  It is well-known that the state does not have the staff nor the finances to investigate these complaints. I have helped many targets to file complaints. Out of all the complaints since 1999 only one had been investigated and confirmed they wrongfully terminated almost three years after she had filed the complaint. The attorney general’s office advised her to go to civil court.

This individual psychologically declined over the three years she waited for the decision wanting some kind of closure.  In the end, the lawyer would be the one who benefited the most financially.

I have had targets call me from all 14 counties from all walks of life. I have had calls in the middle of the night, I have had some who have arrived on my door step. I have brought a few to the emergency room who expressed suicidal ideation. 

The most recent numbers in Vermont for targets that are presently being bullied in the workplace is 90,900 targets if you add the numbers of past employees that have been impacted by bullies the number rise to 157,000 out of a workforce of 337,000. These numbers are one that our legislatures are aware of.  The cost of Bullying in the United States of America has been estimated to be $300,000,000.00 that is transferred to the cost of goods and services in this country.  Bullies in the workplace are expensive. The loss of experienced workers, hostile work environment impacts productivity, workers immune systems are compromised so absenteeism is high, error rates rise along with inefficiency. Workers that are impacted require health care so the cost of health care rise.

I have asked for a public hearing since the bill has been introduced and again this year I am once again being told that they will not take action this year. We need to contact our senators and our representatives to amend bill S143 to its original state and to make this a civil matter allowing the 45 percent has suffered physical, psychological and financial harm the right to legal redress in civil courts. This would not add to the budget deficit, the state would not have to pay a penny to stop the abuse!