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Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fulton County, Georgia Adopts Anti-Bullying Policy to Protect County Employees

 

On November 7, the Fulton County (Georgia) Commission adopted an anti-bullying policy to protect county workers.  The policy applies to employees, department heads and elected or appointed officials, including part-time and temporary employees.

Fulton County Commissioner William Edwards (District 7) introduced the measure, stating that the county’s existing workplace violence protection policies did not adequately protect employees against bullying.

Fulton County’s new anti-bullying provision defines bullying as verbal abuse; threatening, humiliating or intimidating conduct; sabotage or work interference that prevents work completion or performance; or exploitation of a known psychological or physical vulnerability.

The policy requires employees to remove themselves from a bullying threat and report the behavior as soon as possible, either to a direct supervisor or to the county manager if the offender is the employee’s supervisor.  Under the new anti-bullying policy, supervisors must take action to protect the alleged victim, including separating the alleged victim from the alleged perpetrator and investigating the allegations.

The minimum penalty for a first offense is 5-day suspension without pay.  The second offense will result in the employee’s dismissal.

Should private employers follow Fulton County’s example?  Bullying is a common workplace occurrence, according to studies such as the 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute’s survey.  But does bullying do damage to the workforce and the bottom line?  Additional research suggests that it may do so.

Bullying at work may reduce employee productivity and employee morale.  It may also result in higher employee turnover and absenteeism.  Bullying may also result in increased medical insurance and workers’ compensation claims.

In 1998, the University of North Caroline studied 775 targets of workplace bullying:

  • 28 percent spent work time avoiding the bully and the environment
  • 22 percent decreased their work effort
  • 12 percent changed jobs

 

Employers may want to review their workplace violence protection policies and consider adding an anti-bullying provision to their employee manuals.  If an employee is found to be a known bully and repeat offender, an anti-bullying provision may give the human resources department the necessary resources to pursue appropriate disciplinary action.  Adding a short anti-bullying section to the new employee training agenda helps create a workplace environment where all employees know that bullying is not tolerated.

To ensure that your anti-bullying policy complies with federal and state employment laws, ask an experienced business law and employment discrimination attorney to review the policy before you add the final version to your employee handbook.


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