Monday, December 20, 2004

Oh, The Pity Of It...

Sweet are the uses of adversity?

[Katina] Perry was working at the optical lab in Costco's Tukwila [Washington] store when one of her co-workers began to flirt with her. When she didn't respond, his teasing became sexual and persistent until one morning, after their shift ended at 4 a.m., he exposed himself in the parking lot, according to a lawsuit that Perry later filed.

"His shorts were down and he was doing a little dance," Perry says.

She reported the incident, but Costco's investigators concluded that it was her word against the co-worker's. The company reassigned him to the day shift, and gave Perry a transfer to a Federal Way [Washington] store.

When the bully began to show up in Federal Way, glaring at Perry as he waited in the checkout line, Perry's fragile emotional state worsened. She began to call in sick and was sleeping excessively. She felt isolated, lonely and angry that her complaints about the bully weren't being taken as seriously as she'd hoped. Her tormenter was still working.

She filed a sexual-harassment suit against Costco, and after an appeal by Costco, won a $725,000 judgment in October.

Costco believes this was a case of one person's word against another, and that it handled the matter appropriately.

Perhaps Costco should have paid some fees to:

...Gary Namie, a psychologist and founder of The Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute based in Bellingham [Washington].

Where they could have learned the breadth of this epidemic

One in six American workers experiences some sort of bullying on the job, according to a 2000 study by Wayne State University in Michigan.

And while there's little scientific research on workplace bullies and their victims, an informal survey by the bullying institute sheds some light: Most of the bullies are bosses, although women are just as likely to be abusive as men. Eighty-four percent of female bullies target other women.

This is the case with one technology worker in Everett, who requests anonymity for fear of losing her job. She says her boss, a woman in her 50s, is giggly and deferential to men, yet jealous, manipulative and controlling with her female employees.

The boss has copied clients on e-mails scolding her team's performance, set up employees to fail with unrealistic expectations, and meddles for no other reason than to remain in control, the worker says.

....The bully also frequently denies time off, saying that the workload won't allow it. ....

More than 80 percent of those bullied lose their jobs....

Namie, the psychologist and co-author of "The Bully at Work,"....

Even good-natured ribbing can become bullying if it's unwelcome and persistent.

...."It got to the point where anytime I had to go to the front office they would make fun of me," says Christopher Eiden, 33. "The way I walked, the way I talked, the way I dressed."

....Many employers might dismiss Eiden's reaction as overly sensitive, but Namie likens such harassment to water torture.

....Eiden complained to management and received reprimands for his attitude, he says.

He eventually was fired. Eiden couldn't sue under job-discrimination laws because the incidents were not based on his race, gender, ethnicity, age or disability. The only other legal basis is the "intentional infliction of emotional distress," a claim that hasn't been too successful in court.

....Namie and Washington state Rep. Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham) are promoting a bill that would educate employers on the effects of workplace bullying. The Legislature is expected to take up the matter next year.

Other states, including Massachusetts, California, Oklahoma and Oregon, also are considering legislation on bullying.

Is it April 1, already?

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