Safe Work Environment Act Special Report: The WDBJ Murders

This column appears in the September 3 – 10 edition of the Hartford News…

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As this column went to press, this video surfaced of 41-year-old Gilbert Flores being fatally shot by two Texas police officers after putting his hands up.

False Choice: The Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color

Trebol Press has published my first nonfiction book on politics. The Democrats and Republicans spar publicly, but the reality is that these two parties have more in common than they have differences. This duopoly is run on corporatist economic policies that benefit the ruling class, at the expense of the workers and the poor. Global hegemony is at the core of the foreign policies of the Dems and the GOP. False Choice is a diary of national and global issues, set against the backdrop of the Connecticut gubernatorial election between Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley that was rated as the most negative in the country in 2014. The book also features commentary on politics at Hartford City Hall, including analysis of the highly controversial baseball stadium deal orchestrated by Mayor Pedro Segarra and City Council President Shawn Wooden. Segarra and Democratic Party challenger Luke Bronin will square off in a primary September 16. Visit the Trebol Press website for ordering info.

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Workplace Violence on Live TV

Vester Flanagan has made life a lot harder for people who have legitimate claims about being discriminated against, harassed or bullied at work. This individual railed against racism in his 23 page manifesto, then expressed admiration for Columbine spree killers Dylan Kebold and Eric Harris, who shouted racial slurs at Black teen Isaiah Shoels before shooting him to death. I watched the POV video Flanagan filmed of his shooting of Virginia TV station WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, cameraman Adam Ward and Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce (Gardner survived the shooting). Flanagan meticulously staged his murderous attack as if he was directing a movie scene, then promoted it on social media. Anybody who thinks that Flanagan represents Black people is as sick as he was.

That being said, I was struck by a CNN interview the day after the shooting. The usually clueless Wolf Blitzer drew a surprising admission by Don Shafer, the former news director at Florida station WTWC-TV, where Flanagan worked in 1999. Shafer said that Flanagan was subjected to workplace bullying due to Flanagan being openly gay. Shafer said that Flanagan was ridiculed when he came to work wearing what Shafer described as a “ballet outfit”. Flanagan filed a lawsuit against WTWC after he was fired by the station. Shafer said that Flanagan originally made discrimination due to his sexual preference the basis of his lawsuit, but quickly changed it to a racial discrimination lawsuit after he was informed that gays were not a protected class. WTWC reached a settlement with Flanagan.

No evidence has emerged that supports Flanagan’s claims of racial discrimination at WDBJ. However after I watched the CNN interview I wondered if Flanagan’s fuse (he admitted in his manifesto to being a “human powder keg”) was lit by his experience at WTWC. Shafer said that Flanagan received counseling provided by the station, but he said nothing about any action being taken against employees who bullied Flanagan. Shafer explained away WTWC’s inaction by saying that the climate toward homosexuality was much different at the time. It appears to me as if Flanagan became a bully as he carried his emotional baggage from WTWC into the WDBJ newsroom, taking offense at any perceived slight. Flanagan mentioned in his manifesto that he was upset by a clearly innocuous question by an intern, who asked him where he was going to “swing by” for lunch.

Flanagan was a narcissist who was looking for a reason to commit murder; his affinity for Klebold, Harris, Virginia Tech spree killer Seung-Hui Cho and his support of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks is a clear indication of this. After hearing the admission by Shafer, I believe that workplace bullying Flanagan experienced at WTWC definitely contributed to his mental deterioration. Flanagan said in his manifesto that he did not wish to seek employment, because he did not want to encounter workplace bullying again. Flanagan added that lawmakers should do something about the issue.

The Community Party will introduce our Safe Work Environment Act legislation in 2016. This bill would provide workers with more protection against abusive workplace conduct than the Healthy Workplace Bill, which has been introduced at the State Capitol in recent years. Our bill would remove legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. SWA eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical/psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill (see below), which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR.

SWA also includes a provision drafted by Nevada State Sen. Richard Segerblom. The When the Abuser Goes to Work employment blog ( explained the importance of Segerblom’s bill. “Nevada State Sen. Richard Segerblom has proposed amending a Nevada law patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Sen. Segerblom wants to provide individuals who can prove they are the victims of a hostile work environment the right to a remedy under the law whether or not they can show illegal discrimination. In other words, he has proposed making the hostile workplace remedy status-blind.

Segerblom’s proposed bill defines ‘abusive conduct’ as:
•Repeated verbal abuse in the form of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets;
• Verbal or physical conduct which is threatening, intimidating, and humiliating; and
• The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work product.

Unless the abuse is particularly egregious, abusive conduct must be directed at the employee target on more than one occasion.

It is not difficult for employers to avoid liability under the proposed bill. The bill states that it is an affirmative defense to an action for abusive conduct in a work environment if the employer:
•Exercised reasonable care to prevent the abusive conduct; and
• Promptly corrected the abusive conduct.

If an employer is found to be liable, the employer could be assessed damages, back pay, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Segerblom’s proposed bill provides significantly more protection to targets of workpladce bullying than the Healthy Workplace Bill proposed by the Workplace Bullying Institute.” Abusive workplace conduct is a health and safety issue which must be addressed. Stay tuned for updates on our campaign.

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives and So-Metro Radio the first and third Tuesday of each month at 9:00 PM for commentary on urban issues Check out our No Sellout blog ( for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns ( Contact us at 860-206-8879 or


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