FORT EDWARD -- Washington County’s legal expert expects the state to soon enact a ban on workplace bullying for government employees, like lawmakers did in schools in 2010, a potential move at least one supervisor sees as an unwarranted softening of society.
County Attorney Roger Wickes advised the Board of Supervisors Government Operations Committee on Tuesday that anti-bullying activists are gaining traction in New York and across the country.
The state Legislature is expected to take up a proposed ban on workplace bullying among government employees next year, Wicks said.
“Welcome to namby-pamby land,” said Dresden Supervisor Bob Banks, as Wickes explained that the actual oversight requirements that would be imposed on local governments isn’t known.
The county, like all local governments in New York, already have sexual harassment and workplace violence policies that can see employees disciplined or fired if violated.
The new mandated equity policy would likely closely mirror sexual harassment bans without the gender-specific or sexual components, Wickes said.
“What it boils down to is: Don’t be a jerk,” Wickes said.
But one person’s bullying is another person’s “arm twisting,” some officials said.
Cambridge Supervisor William “Beaver” Watkins, who regularly does battle with an especially antagonistic local blogger, noted that elected officials regularly endure public bludgeonings that many would consider bullying.
“When you’re an elected official, get used to it,” Watkins said. “You’re going to get hammered.”
The state adopted an anti-bullying policy in 2010 for schools that expands the definition of harassment to include the creation of a hostile environment that could impact a student’s ability to learn.
The schools legislation requires teachers and administrators to report any reported bullying events and mandates the state Education Department to include “civility” training throughout the public education curriculum. It also requires schools, in some cases, to provide counseling to bullied students.
Greater awareness of bullying in society and several high-profile suicides have driven a lot of attention to social networking sites.
But supervisors had a hard time taking the likely expansion of the regulations to adults seriously.
“I think the county should have a dueling policy,” quipped Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke.