NORTH TONAWANDA – Bullying has gotten a lot of attention among schoolchildren, but hostile work environments and bullying behavior in the workplace are now being addressed by a bill in the State Legislature.
In advance of the proposed legislation, the North Tonawanda Common Council unanimously adopted its own measure Tuesday, updating its 2009 Workplace Violence Prevention Policy with specific language to address bullying.
The Council did not discuss the policy, but Mayor Robert G. Ortt said after the meeting that bullying is a “real deal” that goes beyond schools, even to the case involving the Miami Dolphins in the National Football League.
“I think if you are going to ask kids to behave a certain way, there’s no reason not to expect adults to behave in the same manner,” Ortt said.
“You want people to be able to come to work and do their job in an environment that is professional. Without that, morale goes down, people don’t do their jobs as well, and there are health-related issues that are additional costs to the employer, which in this case is the city and ultimately the public.”
Assistant City Attorney Katherine D. Alexander said prior to the meeting, “We are just trying to be as prepared as we can here. If something were to happen, there will be steps an employee could take.”
Like the law being proposed in the State Legislature, the city policy gives employees the definition of an abusive workplace and provides for specific consequences. The policy also requires a system for reporting incidents of aggressive bullying.
The city now has a “zero tolerance policy” regarding reports of an abusive work environment.
According to the new city policy, after an investigation by the supervisor and the city attorney, any employee who is found to have committed a violation may be disciplined – which could include discharge, and criminal or civil prosecution.