Safe Work Environment Act Report

This column appears in the March 17 – 24 edition of the Hartford News…
Community Party Radio on So-Metro Radio
Commentary on urban issues from a grassroots perspective. First and third Tuesday of each month. 8:00 PM Eastern Time 7:00 PM Central 5:00 PM Pacific. Tune in! Replays the following Wednesday, same time. Next show: March 29.  Check out our No Sellout blog for info on the rest of our Community Party Media lineup, including False Choice: the Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color.
Meagan Hockaday Act
Meagan Hockaday was murdered by Oxnard, California police officer Roger Garcia in front of her children on March 28, 2015. Garcia has not been charged.  The Community Party’s Meagan Hockaday Act will include enhanced criminal penalties for excessive use of force by the police against mentally ill people and individuals in crisis, in addition to whenever children are present. Our legislation will implement a new international approach to policing, based on a successful model in the United Kingdom and Canada that emphasizes de-escalation and treatment. Public Health Committee co-chair Rep. Matt Ritter is collaborating with us on this bill. Stay tuned for updates and action alerts. Meagan Matters! The official bill has been drafted: you can view it here.  We’ll post action alerts on my Facebook page and the CP Twitter page. Details at the end of the column.  Check out CP’s 2016 legislative package at our No Sellout blog.
 Thank You

Big shout out to everyone who has submitted public hearing testimony supporting the Meagan Hockaday Act. Check out our action alert for info on how you can contact the Connecticut General Assembly Public Health Committee.

5 Ways Your Workplace Bully May Be Breaking The Law

‘Used and abused’ asks what a small staff can do

This week we’ll share a post from the AOL Jobs website on legal strategies regarding workplace bullying. The Safe Work Environment Act is a part of CP’s legislative package.
This reader faces a problem many employees encounter at work – the workplace bully.
Hi Donna,
What action would you suggest staff take when the Executive Director of a tax funded nonprofit organization, which is overseen by a board, is abusive to staff? Staff does not have access to HR; they report to the ED who reports to the board. Some incidents have been “investigated” by one or two board members and the HR of the employer of a board member. Nothing has improved. Incidents have been the ED slapping the hand, kicking, and yelling at an employee to “go do your f****** job,” commenting on how an employee is dressed, yelling at staff, “forgetting” they did or said something, not following policies and procedures consistently and speaking harshly as to show their superiority. We are at a loss as to what to do. We are not permitted to speak to any member of the board without the ED’s consent. We are a small staff, under 15 employees. Suggestions would be most welcome.
Thank you.
Used and abused

Hi “Used and abused,” It sounds like you’re dealing with a bully, which is all too common these days. A career counselor or health care professional might view things differently, but I’ll give my perspective as an employee-side employment lawyer.

I’ve written before about how workplace bullying is not illegal in any state. Although 23 states have tried to pass anti-bullying laws, none have succeeded. Eleven states currently have anti-bullying laws pending, but I’m not optimistic. Still, there’s hope for the bullied. Bullies frequently cross the line into illegal behavior at work.

Here are five ways your workplace bully might be doing something illegal:

  1. Targeting the weak: Just like playground bullies, workplace bullies target the weakest employees, or those the bully perceives as weak. While that’s not necessarily illegal, who does a bully consider weak? Disabled, pregnant and older employees are easy bullying targets because the bully knows you can’t lose your job. If you’re a caregiver for a disabled child, parent or spouse, you may be a target. Targeting these protected categories crosses the line into illegal discrimination.
  2. Targeting the different: Bullies hate people who are different from them. Who might be different to a bully at work? If you notice that you’re being targeted along with others of the same race, sex, religion, national origin, or color, then the bully is engaging in illegal discrimination.
  3. Sudden change: If you weren’t the bully’s target and suddenly are, maybe something changed for you. Did you recently turn 50? Take Family and Medical Leave? Return from military service? Make a worker’s compensation claim? Find out about a genetic condition? If so, the bully might be breaking discrimination, retaliation or other laws.
  4. Stalking: Your state may have anti-stalking laws that prohibit the bully’s behavior. For instance, Florida’s anti-stalking statute provides, “A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree.” There are also specific cyberstalking laws in some states.
  5. Assault/battery: If your bully makes you fear you’re about to be hit, that’s assault. If they actually engage in offensive or harmful touching or hitting, they’ve engaged in battery. Both assault and battery are against the law in every state.
So, now that you’ve figured out that your workplace bully is breaking the law, what can you do? I’ll be writing next Tuesday about some things you can do to protect yourself against your workplace bully.

If you need legal advice, it’s best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can’t answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat.

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 8:00 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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