Friday, August 13, 2010

Military workplace bullying: can a law help?

Smets: Military workplace bullying: can a law help?

I was lucky; I survived a military reservist’s bullying. But a former civil servant experiencing bullying from another military reservist in the same office wasn’t as lucky — she died one month after being forced into retirement.

I personally saw the agency’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) written settlement for another civil servant in the same office, which stated she could be transferred to a civil servant supervisor from her present military reservist supervisor (i.e., the bully) if she signed on the bottom legal line to retire — otherwise, if she doesn’t retire, the complainant remains working for the military direct supervisor (i.e., the bully).

Once a civil servant at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) contracting division files a harassment claim against the U.S. Navy under Equal Employment Opportunity laws, the base commander has the right to make a determination to prevent further bullying and make changes. To date, no changes have been made.

It is guaranteed: The civil servant will not prevail in these cases against NAVAIR. A decade of history will support this view with a voluminous paper trail.

My EEO filing is now part of the unresolved cases regarding bullying at NAVAIR Pt. Mugu/China Lake. No civil servant is able to remain strong enough — emotionally, physically and financially — to get to an EEO hearing; the bullying becomes too great. However, the military reservists are promoted during or subsequent to their bullying behavior.

An article in The Star’s July 18 Parade magazine ( entitled “Workplace Bullying: Do We Need a Law?” brings hope. The Workplace Bullying Institute understands the humiliation and intimidation experienced by the bully’s victim.

A law would apply to all government employees of all ranks — laws have no prejudice. We need these laws to protect and serve the recipients of bullying.

Taxpayers deserve productive and hard-working employees. Employees deserve to work in a safe environment. Laws are needed that apply to public and private employers.

Thank you, Workplace Bullying Institute, for giving hope.

— Janice Smets lives in Oak Park.

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