More than Half of Women in Workplace Bullied

peopleatworkMore than half of women are bullied at work– often by members of their own sex, according to the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in the United Kingdom.

The gender equality group, Opportunity Now, and PwC, an international  professional services group, commissioned a survey that included interviews with nearly 23,000 women and more than 2,000 men.

The group recently issued a report,  “Project 28-40,”  which urges employers to recognize that “harassment and bullying still occur, despite well-meaning policies. Call it out, deal with perpetuators, and make it simple and straightforward to report.”

Helena Morrissey, chairperson of Opportunity Now, said the key  to improve the workplace for women should be training  excellent managers; this will  achieve “much more than yet another initiative  or programme.”

Fifty-two percent of the women who responded to the survey said they experienced bullying at work within the past three years. The rates were highest for Black British / African /Caribbean women (69%), women with disabilities (71%), bisexual (61%) and lesbian and gay women (55%).

Without being specific, the report states that  the biggest enemy facing women in the office or other workplaces may be other women.  The researchers conducted ten focus groups to gain insight from the survey findings.  “Women often experience bullying by female colleagues and line managers, a point echoed by focus groups participants who thought female bullies felt threatened by potential and ability and so exploited their position or authority to undermine,” said the report.

More than one in four of the women surveyed said they had experienced overbearing supervision or misuse of authority, or were deliberately overloaded with work and subject to constant criticism. One in six of the women experienced exclusion and victimization or were intentionally blocked from promotion or training opportunities.

The researchers conclude that the data shows the extent to which workplaces are “dysfunctional, inefficient and fundamentally unjust” to women.

An additional 12% of women reported experiencing sexual  harassment within the past three years. One in eight said they had been sexually harassed – defined as “unwelcome comments of a sexual nature.”  This includes unwanted physical contact or leering, asking for sexual favors, displaying offensive material such as posters, or sending offensive emails or texts of a sexual nature.

Workplace Bully Targets Suffer Without Law

CostelloNew Jersey – Kevin M. Costello,  a New Jersey attorney, said he turns away more than 2,000 people a year who are seeking his help to combat workplace bullying.

“These are people who have panic attacks.  Their hair is falling out.  They are throwing up blood … They ask, ‘Why can’t you help me?’ ‘Why isn’t there a law?” said Costello, who spoke at the first conference of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition at Rutgers School of Law earlier this month. “I can’t stand saying ‘no’ to that many people,” said Costello.

Costello is assisting New Jersey State Sen. Linda Greenstein,  assistant majority leader of the NJ Senate,  in crafting a proposed state law to address workplace bullying.

Sen. Greenstein said the bill will help targets who are under “extreme stress. What we’re looking for here is not your everyday not-so-pleasant workplace … We’re looking for very serious situations.”

Costello, who specializes in employment rights, said there are no viable options at present for victims of workplace bullying, especially those who do not fall within a protected class under state or federal anti-discrimination laws (i.e., race, sex, religion, color, national origin).

Critics of workplace bullying legislation often argue that such legislation will add to the cost of doing business in New Jersey, make the state  less competitive and  ultimately would harm the state’s economy.  Costello said the same concerns were raised in the past and were unfounded.

“Why should we do something about child labor? The economy would suffer if we didn’t hire children … Why should we pay women the same amount as men? They have husbands … What do you mean Occupational Safety and Health Act?  I want to make sure the economy doesn’t suffer,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a bill whose time has come.”

More than 100 attorneys, union officials, policy makers and targets of workplace bullying attended the April 4 conference of the NWBC,  the first national organization formed to address the problem of workplace bullying.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of U.S. workers are either experiencing abusive conduct at work or did so in the past, and 21 percent have witnessed it, according to a 2014 national survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute.  The survey also found that almost three-quarters of employers have done nothing to curb workplace bullying.  An estimated  93 percent of  respondents in a national survey said they support enactment of legislation to protect employees from abusive conduct at work.

* Disclaimer:  I am a co-founder and member of the NWBC.

NLRB, Scholarships and Bootleg Plays

Football.locA bootleg play occurs when a quarterback pretends to pass off the ball in an effort to misdirect the defense, and then runs with it.

For years, universities have been engaged in a bootleg play with respect to elite football and basketball players and teaching assistants. They compensate these employees with free tuition and other “grants in aid,” despite the fact they really work for the university and, especially in the case of athletes, generate millions of dollars in revenue.

Now the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a decision classifying football players at Northwestern University as employees who are entitled to unionize (or not).

The university pays a wage to undergraduate students who work in the campus library or dining hall.  Why shouldn’t  it pay a football player who is required to work 40 to 60 hours a week in sometimes difficult conditions, while risking brain injury and chronic debilitation?

NLRB Judge Peter Sung Orh ruled the Northwestern football players are employees because, among other things, they are required to work under “strict and exacting control” by the university throughout the entire year, so much so that it interferes with their educational pursuits.

Critics argue the athletes are compensated already through scholarships (which could be construed as an admission that they are employees).  Nonetheless, an athletic scholarship is not like a scholarship to study poetry or physics. It is money paid for work performed for the university.

The Northwestern football players who get scholarships (only 85 out of 112 do) receive free tuition, room and board and other perks totaling an estimated $61,000 a year. But this  rate of compensation pales when compared to coaches, athletic administrators and the profits they generate for the university.

The real issue that strikes fear in the heart of American universities is the possibility that college athletes might demand a  share of the pie. According to the Washington Post, the television contract for the new college football playoff system is worth $7.3 billion over 10 years, and the current deal to broadcast the men’s basketball tournament is worth $10.8 billion over 14 years.

Importance of Language

Football players aren’t the only university employees who are being short-changed through a bootleg play.

Universities like call teaching assistants “graduate students” so that they can be largely unpaid. However, in the past two decades, teaching assistants (a.k.a. Academic Student Employees) have unionized at approximately two dozen public American universities.  The Internal Revenue Service considers teaching assistants to be employees and taxes their compensation as wages.

Private universities like Northwestern have fought successfully to avoid unionization of student employees but that may be changing.

The NLRB ruled in 2004 that teaching assistants at Brown University were primarily students and denied them a petition to unionize.  However,  students at New York University, which is a private institution, voted last December by a margin of 620 to 10 to affiliate with the United Automobile Workers, a national union that represents  workers in higher education across the country.


Judge  Ohr said the Brown precedent did not apply to football players in part because their role as athletes are separate from their academic role.  He has directed an election to take place on the question of whether the members of the Northwestern College Athletes Players Association wish to unionize. The university is expected to appeal Ohr’s decision.