Barbara Byrd, Ph.D.*
Deborah Mailander, J.D.** Helen Moss ***
Over the past 15 years in the U.S. and Canada, the phenomena of workplace bullying and mobbing (bullying by a group rather than an individual) have been widely discussed and debated. There is a growing consensus among lay people and scholars on the definition of workplace bullying, its causes, and its effects on individuals as well as on the workplace itself. At the same time, translating this consensus into effective employment policies and contract provisions is challenging: the parties need clear and enforceable language that also meets the sometimes divergent interests of employees, employers and unions.
Our purpose in this paper is to provide assistance to advocates and arbitrators as they deal with this complex workplace problem. We briefly review the definitions, prevalence, impact and causes of workplace bullying and mobbing. We discuss the evolving approaches to workplace bullying by union and management representatives, providing a sampling of employer policy and contract language. Finally, we review a set of arbitration cases for insights into the grounds on which bullying and mobbing cases have been decided. Our conclusion outlines suggestions for further research. The bulk of our research focuses on cases, contracts and employers in the United States. We have tried to add Canadian examples where possible, although differences in the legal and labor relations structures of the two countries limit the applicability of our conclusions.
The authors of this paper are labor educators at the Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon. In this capacity, among other duties, we train union staff and elected representatives in the technical aspects of labor-management relations. In the early 2000s, we began to notice increased frustration among these advocates with the problem of workplace bullying. For