Human Resources, OSHA

Attention Employees: Abuse is coming to a workplace near you!

In recent months, the world has been made well aware of the abusive conduct of some well-known NFL players; Adrian Peterson (of the Minnesota Vikings) and Ray Rice (of the Baltimore Ravens) have been the most visible. On the football field – their workplace- abusive conduct and tendencies are a mandate of the position they were hired to fulfill. The aggressive and highly charged performances they are required to give every week are entertaining, draw big crowds and praised by their employers.

However, this very conduct, when brought into a more normal work environment, is extremely unacceptable. No sane employer would support an employee who hits his wife or abuses his kids. An employer with a conscience would remove the threat from the workplace. The fact that some employers have missed is that abusive personalities, like Rice and Peterson, don’t check their behavior at the door. They bring their behavior and tendencies into the workplace—your workplace.


Nationally, 30% of women and at least 10% of men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and suffer long-lasting effects. About 74% of abused individuals will be confronted at work by their abuser in some way. So, listen up employees: Whether you work alongside a victim or a perpetrator, abuse is coming to a workplace near you!

Need proof? Okay – consider these statistics published by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI):

  • 65 million workers have been affected by workplace bullying.
  • 27% of workers are either currently being bullied (7%) or have been bullied (20%).
  • Countless others have witnessed bullying, or are aware of it where they work.
  • In some cases it’s the boss (56%) and other times it’s coworkers (33%) who are engaging in the misconduct.

Workplace bullies have been destroying the morale of employees, making their victims sick, decreasing productivity levels, and generally wrecking the place most of our time is spent on a daily basis.

The WBI reports that   93% percent of Americans support passing a law that makes abusive workplace conduct illegal. So far, 26 states have tried to get laws on the books and most have failed. Tennessee and California have passed laws, but the legislation has had very limited reach and impact.

In May of 2014, Tennessee became the first state to adopt a law prohibiting abusive workplace conduct. Although the law applies only to public employees, it is a step in the right direction. The law is designed to “curb verbal abuse at work by making public-sector employers immune to bullying-related lawsuits if they adopt a policy that complies with the law.” In August 2014 California’s governor signed AB 2053 into law. The new law requires employers to discuss “abusive conduct” in their mandatory harassment prevention training. (AB 1825)  Sadly, AB 2053 requires training, but does not declare abusive conduct to be unlawful. Will it make a difference? Will employers comply and work to protect present and potential future victims? We must make enough noise about this national problem to be heard. What will you do to stop the abuse? Is abuse coming to a workplace near you, or has it already arrived?

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