Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cyberbullying Prevention in the 2013 Workplace

While many schools in the United States have policies prohibiting bullying or "cyberbullying" (bullying through social networks),  laws in the United States and worldwide inadequately address this sensitive issue in the workplace.

Anti-Cyberbullying Laws
Cyberbullying or Internet Safety Laws have been enacted in several states.  Yet, these laws attached to the public school anti-bullying legislation.  For information on which states have enacted cyberbullying legislation, see: State Cyber Bullying Laws:  A Brief Review of State Cyberbullying Laws and Policies

Workplace Anti-Bullying Legislation
In the United States, workplace bullying legislation has been introduced by several states, but to my knowledge no legislation has been passed.  For more information on bullying in the workplace, see Resources from the Healthy Workplace.  This site provide information on states who have introduced workplace anti-bullying legislation.  

Recently, a county in Georgia has treated workplace bullying of government employees as grounds for dismissal.
Fulton County [Atlanta, GA] banned bullying in the workplace, making it a firable offense. The director of a workplace institute praises Commissioner Bill Edwards, who proposed the rules for addressing the harm bullying inflicts on victims and the work environment. While a criminal justice professor applauds anti-bullying policies intent, he says they aren’t an instant answer. And another professor suggests that Georgia adopt legislation geared to deter bullying.
Workplace bullies: Back off!

As far as worldwide treatment of workplace bullying, Australia has taken a lead role, prompted by the unfortunate  death of teenage waitress Brodie Panlock:
Four men were fined a total of $335,000 last year over the relentless bullying of Brodie while she worked at Cafe Vamp, in Melbourne. There were charged with workplace offences rather than assault or criminal offences.  During her time at Cafe Vamp, Brodie was spat on, called ugly and, on one occasion, had fish oil poured all over her hair and clothes.  She was 19 when threw herself from a multi-storey car park in September 2006.  When she first attempted suicide she was mocked for failing, then offered rat poison.

Workplace Education and Prevention
What can companies do to prevent employee bullying at work and online, whether on or off company time?  Human resources professionals should consider a revision of company handbooks and social media policies to specifically include language on the lack of tolerance for employee bullying activity.

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