Lobbying Legislators to pass a "Workplace Bullying" Bill in New Jersey
Stop workplace bullying by creating safe healthy workplaces in the business community fostering vigorous productive workforces attracting industry to NJ
Re: Bill S333 introduced in the 2012 session establishing the Healthy Workplace Act.
Dear Honorable Assemblyman/woman:
For five years I withstood an extremely hostile environment in my workplace enduring constant badgering, alienation, harassment, intimidation, stalking, criticism, constant rejection of work product, disciplinary action, suspensions. Finally, I received 3 consecutive failed performance evaluations from my supervisor all under the direction of upper management in a deliberate strategy to "legally" remove me. This occurred at a high profile division of the NJ Department of Agriculture. On three occasions since 2007, I needed extended medical leave after being subjected to chronic, deliberate psychological violence by my supervisor, a very sadistic workplace bully following orders of our executive director. In the 11 years I have worked there, I have seen several of my coworkers taking extended medical leave for severe illnesses due to work-related stress but none were directly subjected to the hostility that was the deliberate strategy used to "drive me out one way or another." As they say "PTSD at work makes the workplace a war zone!"
The psychological trauma began when I first took the position at the NJDA in 1999. Prior to this, I was with the NJDEP, the dream of every career environmentalist, for 8 months and received a “Commendable PAR” while carrying a full caseload of high priority Industrial Site Remediation projects. Before that I was in the private sector of the environmental industry for 8 years as an award-winning ecologist and environmental scientist. But with the passing of the public Open Space referendum in 1998 and the resulting new tax dollar paid $6 billion Garden State Preservation Trust, new positions opened with the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) with HUGE increases in salary and opportunity and I left my trainee-salaried position at NJDEP for a top level professional position at the SADC to be able to “grow with an exciting new Farmland Preservation Program”.
Apparently my enthusiasm and new ideas to streamline and make the program more efficient, although they were solicited from the executive director at that time, were not taken well by the "Old Guard" (a long time deputy director who had been passed over several times in promotion to executive director but who ruled the program with a Napoleanic grip and his close pal and neighbor, a domineering and subversive confidential secretary who laid claim to the program and the group dynamic and both were heard to say "who does she think she is? We'll put an end to this!!) Subsequently, I was failed on my first two performance evaluations and although I "disagreed" on record following the procedures of the union contract and filed grievances with the union (as useless as that was), it was to no avail and it became increasingly obvious that I was being deliberately railroaded for personal reasons having NOTHING to do with my performance!!
"PTSD at work makes the workplace a war zone!"
However, during some organizational shifting and then under a different supervisor for the next four years, a very fair minded and relatively new Program Manager, I did extremely well and performed many varied job responsibilities without issue. My supervisor did tell me on several occasions that he was “on the blacklist” because he “refused to set anyone up to fail” and that he couldn't allow me to participate in any of the special programs but that it "wasn't his idea, and he thought it was very bizarre the way I was being treated". But he would not stick his neck out any further for me.
I did well under this supervisor until 2005 when the former executive director left to join a nonprofit organization and a new executive director came aboard up from one of the counties. She naturally took up with the “Old Guard” whom she felt she needed to accommodate her “learning curve” as she grabbed the reins of the program to which she previously had been submitting her own county's farm easement purchase applications. The counties were notorious for submitting deficient applications and obviously the deputy director and his secretary (who was immediately promoted to head secretary under the new executive) were invaluable to her to run the shop and be her technical backup. I've been told that after having several "closed door" meetings with key staff, my executive director inquired of the director of Human Resources back in 2006 what would the required steps be to have a classified full time employee removed. Then over the next three years she deliberately set out to discredit me and destroy my professional career by arbitrarily failing me on my performance evaluations. She enlisted the assistance of an attorney from the DAG’s office to represent them against my Civil Rights and EEOC complaints when I filed a discrimination complaint. Yet, oddly enough, this same DAG attorney also was tasked with reviewing my subsequent “reasonable accommodation request” which I’ve always felt was a conflict of interest. In some of the documents submitted in one of my disciplinary hearings, it appears that my executive director may have had access to my personal medical records.
Towards the end of her first year, this middle-aged Macchiavellian woman hired a hometown henchwoman a high ranking manager whose only previous experience was in the her family's construction and demolition business to ride roughshod over the poor hardworking staff she jauntily referred to as "those working in the trenches." Soon morale descended into an abyss no one ever expected. I was placed under the charge of this other middle-age Nazi-esque frauline who took to sending me emails in the evening in bold bright red font with diatribe after diatribe that would greet me first thing in the morning and then she would lurk behind corners and walls evesdropping on my conversations only to pop out and demand if I had time to be standing around chatting. She would scowl and sneer and chirp like a cat with a canary in its mouth if she thought she had anything on me she could "write up" and if she didn't, she'd contrive something as easy as that!!
As time went on, depression, insomnia, and other ailments have led to psychiatric injury, a condition brought on by the repeated trauma of being bullied. Rather than perceive me as a valuable state resource, my supervisor set about inundating me with hostile emails and compiling voluminous amounts of documents to “prove” that I could not perform according to my job description with the intent of having me removed. This is an egregious account of state waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars!!
The rigmarole day after day was more than tedious. Over the last four years I have accumulated numerous emails and documents that are evidence that I have been singled out for hostile treatment, treated differently from other coworkers with similar roles, issued changing demands, shifting goalposts (setting me up to unsuccessfully complete assignments and projects) among many other tactics.
This past summer I was out again on medical leave for three months of intensive outpatient treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among other psychiatric disorders. I have sought legal assistance but have been told that workplace bullying is NOT ILLEGAL in New Jersey. If bullies know they can get away with this behavior or the employer does nothing to curb these actions, the bully will become more empowered to up the ante and increase the level of psychological violence in the workplace. This kind of activity should NOT be allowed in the workplaces of New Jersey. This type of psychological violence is especially egregious in state government where a workplace bully, especially one in a management position, will abuse extensive amounts of state time and resources paid for with tax payer's hard earned dollars. Research places workplace bullies in the same category as pedophiles, rapists, and spousal abusers. They see their “targets” as something to be exploited for their needs.
If you have already sponsored or co-sponsored this Bill, I humbly thank you. If you have not yet addressed this issue, I implore you to please consider co-sponsoring the Healthy Workplace Bill S333 so that this kind of psychological violence, so rampant not only in private industry but in state and local workplaces as well, may be curtailed. There would be less absenteeism, less workmen’s compensation claims, that places a burden on the employers; less unemployment claims that places a burden on the State; less social security claims that places a burden on the Federal Government. If Bullies are demoted or terminated on a company’s ‘Zero Tolerance List', there would be no reason for litigation; and eventually, we would have a “Healthy Workplace!”
I am most interested to know what your feelings are on this topic and this indispensable Bill. I would appreciate hearing from you on this issue. The following legislators have already either sponsored or cosponsored the Bill:
Greenstein, Linda R. as Primary Sponsor
Oliver, Sheila Y. as Primary Sponsor
Vainieri Huttle, Valerie as Primary Sponsor
Handlin, Amy H. as Co-Sponsor
Rodriguez, Caridad as Co-Sponsor
Angelini, Mary Pat as Co-Sponsor
DeAngelo, Wayne P. as Co-Sponsor
Giblin, Thomas P. as Co-Sponsor
Spencer, L. Grace as Co-Sponsor
Diegnan, Patrick J., Jr. as Co-Sponsor
Thompson, Samuel D. as Co-Sponsor
Coutinho, Albert as Co-Sponsor
Chivukula, Upendra J. as Co-Sponsor
Caputo, Ralph R. as Co-Sponsor
Wagner, Connie as Co-Sponsor
Jasey, Mila M. as Co-Sponsor
Wisniewski, John S. as Co-Sponsor
Prieto, Vincent as Co-Sponsor
Holzapfel, James W. as Co-Sponsor
Wolfe, David W. as Co-Sponsor
Tucker, Cleopatra G. as Co-Sponsor
I appreciate your time and attention to this most important issue. I look forward to your considerate response.