Did Workplace Bullying Lead to Suicides?

Thu, August 2nd, 2012 - 10:02 am - By Gordon Basichis


In a bad economy and a tight employment market, employees can’t adopt the old Johnny Paycheck song and tell the boss man to “Take This Job and Shove It.”  Tough to find another gig.  So the person with the job sometimes has to endure the the indignities thrown in his or her direction.   They can be harassed, physically and psychologically, or they may be forced to endure the invective of a manager or fellow worker who has long lost any sense or perspective.

I have written about workplace bullying.  One such article is entitled, Study Shows Workplace Violence on Federal Sites.   In all, no matter what study you read, whether you review domestic reports on workplace violence or reports from international concerns, it’s not a pretty picture.  Workers are wedged into their jobs and sometimes feel there is no escape.

Was this what happened at France Telecom.  According to a recent article in the Mail Guardian, the Chief  Executive of France Telecom may be responsible for workplace bullying.  At any rate, there has been a spate of suicides at France Telecom,  The Chief Executive has stepped down under pressure, after some 35 workers killed themselves.  According to the article, it was reported that the Chief Executive dealt with it perhaps less seriously than he should, referring to the workers taking their lives as a “suicide trend.”

According to the Mail Guardian…”Some workers left notes blaming unbearable work pressure, bullying and “management by terror” while scores of other staff, from senior technicians to staff who worked processing bills, were saved as they attempted to kill themselves. One worker was found unconscious after taking an overdose at her desk.

Unions complained of a culture of fear and depression, where managers did not take staff mental health seriously. Some union officials said the company had intentionally created a stressful work environment to push employees into quitting in order to reduce its labour force and thereby cut costs.”

Pretty messed up.  The investigation is ongoing.

The Times Editorial on Employment Screening Background Checks

Wed, August 1st, 2012 - 6:08 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Last week,  the New York Times ran an editorial regarding employment screening and how employment background checks are often inaccurate and cause otherwise innocent people their chances for employment.   The editorial requested that the supervising agencies get a tighter control around the CRA’s or Consumer Reporting Agencies.    Upon reading the editorial, more than a few recruiters and employers, to say nothing of Consumer Reporting Agencies,  had their proverbial bowels in a uproard.

According to the Times Editorial…”Background reports often list the same offense many times, making it appear as if the applicant has an extensive record. Worse still, companies sometimes fail to do the basic checking necessary to distinguish among different people who have the same name.

………..The federal government clearly needs to step in. It should require companies to be federally registered, outline standards for accuracy, make sure that job applicants have a reasonable time to respond to erroneous reports and seek monetary and other penalties from companies that flout the law.”

This is an excellent point.  But the Fair Credit Reporting Act already recommends standards.   For any criminal record found in a database search, both employer and CRA should order the country criminal records search to verify where the information on the database is accurate.  As databases are just that, databases, they are far from perfect instruments.  As such, all information should be carefully reviewed and then verified.  As the county criminal searches are the most accurate, it is incumbent to order the country criminal search and compare information.   If the county criminal records verify the information on the criminal database search then the employer has valid grounds to consider the criminal records.

But often records have been sealed or expunged.  If this is the case, then the CRA is not supposed to report any records and the employer should not consider records found on a database.  As well as records being expunged, sometimes the sentence has been reduced or the candidate as completed court ordered community services, detox programs, or anything else that would cause a reconsideration of the initial charges.  If the charges were dropped or the sentence reduced, this must be considered.

And most importantly, with common names, make sure that the records shown on the database can be legitimately confirmed that they belong to your candidate.  Often database searches will not reveal the date of birth or any identifiers that enable the employer to compare with its candidates.   Joe Brown can be your Joe Brown or one of five thousand “Joe Brown’s” with criminal records.   On one hand any employer wants to be aware of a candidate with criminal records.  But on the other hand, the employer does not want to accuse an innocent party.

Finally, the CRA must have researchers  who actually know how to read.  A dying art in some places as more schools, even college persist in sending out into the workforce hordes of functional illiterates.   Read and compare identifiers.  Is there a date of birth match, a middle name match?   Is there an address match?    Is the spelling correct?

Of course, it’s been our experience that certain recruiter and employers are content to just go with a criminal database search.  When reminded it’s incumbent upon them to conduct the county criminal search, some just shrug it off.   Be it budget consciousness or impatience to move on to the next candidate, recruiters and employers can pass over this vital aspect of background searches.   Simply put, most just don’t want to spend the money.

And that’s a mistake.  Bottom line, it’s a few bucks to verify database hits with county criminal records searches.  It’s money well spent that can prevent serious liability issues.

Big Spike in Colorado Background Checks for Firearms

Thu, July 26th, 2012 - 5:43 am - By Gordon Basichis

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I can’t help but find it interesting but after that terrible shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, background checks for gun purchases have spike some forty percent.   I am not saying this is good or bad, but I do find the reacting to this tragedy where 12 died and 59 were injured.

Like most, I have read yet again the arguments pro and con for gun control.  Nothing new has been said, and each side typically climbs upon its soapbox and spouts the same argument we already know.   Personally, I don’t believe that gun control would ever prevent this type of nut job from acquiring firearms.  Take his nut job buddy in Norway, a nation with strict gun laws…he was able to massacre some 77 persons before being taken into custody.  So, while I do believe in certain forms of gun control– and in Colorado it is legally mandated that the buyer undergo a background check– I do not believe it will prevent the determined hoodlum or homicidal maniac from getting access to weapons.

On the other hand, the argument that an armed movie theater would have prevented this homicidal lunatic from killing so many people, is another concept based in fantasy.   It has already been reported there was chaos and uncertainty with many thinking this gunmen was part of the show.  Given the confusion, the smoke, the multiple gunshots with the concern that there may be more than one shooter, people screaming, fleeing, any number of distractions in a dark theater, had armed patrons drawn down on the gunmen, the body count may well have been much, much higher.

According to the report on CNN.com…”Data supplied by by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation shows that from Friday through Sunday, a total of 2,887 people were approved to buy firearms. That’s a 43% increase over the previous Friday through Sunday, when 2,012 background checks cleared.”

I don’t know what all this means, really.  People are afraid the government will crack down on gun buying and they rush to get theirs before the ban takes effect?   Maybe.  But then the other argument, people feel unsafe and insecure, after such a slaughter, and rush to buy weapons in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.  Equally valid.

For now, I will leave it to conjecture.

New Record for Workers Disability

Tue, July 24th, 2012 - 5:25 am - By Gordon Basichis

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It’s still a sluggish economy with new indications it may be slowing down even more.  One sign, not a good one, is that more than 8 million workers have applied or are on disability.

According to CNSNews.com….”The 8,753,935 workers who took federal disability insurance payments in July exceeded the population of 39 of the 50 states. Only 11 states—California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey—had more people in them than the number of workers on the federal disability insurance rolls in July.”

The ratio of people working as opposed to people now on disability is now 16 to one.

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