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Foss: The city needs an anti-bullying policy

Foss: The city needs an anti-bullying policy

Foss says the Schenectady City Council should consider amending the workplace violence policy to include anti-bullying provisions.
Foss: The city needs an anti-bullying policy
Foss says the City Council should consider amending the workplace violence policy to include anti-bullying provisions.
Photographer: Gazette file photo by Marc Schultz

Does the city of Schenectady need an anti-bullying policy? 

I'll be honest: When I first heard the idea, I wasn't sure. 

Then I learned that City Council President Ed Kosiur had been cited for violating the city's workplace violence policy. 

And I decided that, yes, the city of Schenectady could use an anti-bullying policy. 

It would need to be a well-thought-out policy, and the term bullying would need to be clearly defined. 

But the Kosiur incident makes me think it's worth listening to city union leaders who have complained of a culture of bullying by department supervisors. Their willingness to push this issue suggests the council needs to take a look at it that it goes beyond any one incident or individual. 

"If there's a cohort of employees who feel this would be beneficial to them, why not?" said council member Leesa Perazzo. "If [bullying's] not a problem, then it's not a problem, but you still have a policy in place." 

Perazzo wants the council to discuss amending the city's workplace violence policy to include anti-bullying provisions, but Kosiur has refused to put it on the agenda. 

Judy Versocki, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 886, told me that workplace bullying has always been an issue, but that younger employees are entering the workforce having learned in school that bullying should not be tolerated. 

"We teach our children that it's not acceptable, and it shouldn't be acceptable in the workplace," she said. 

Frankly, it's hard to see what harm could possibly come from an anti-bullying policy. 

Unless you're a bully, that is.

If you're not a bully -- most people, in my experience, are not bullies -- then you stand to benefit from an anti-bullying policy. 

At best, these policies protect workers from mistreatment on the job from a range of harmful and humiliating behaviors, such as verbal abuse, sabotaging a colleague's reputation, cruel pranks, etc.    

A Schenectady city employee, who has since resigned, accused Kosiur of berating her in front of her colleagues and immediate supervisor. 

The complaint was reviewed by an attorney outside the city who determined that Kosiur violated the city's workplace violence policy. Kosiur has said he strongly disagreed with the finding, and that his "speaking voice may be louder than that of many other people." 

Well, we all know people with loud speaking voices. 

But the fact that Kosiur was cited for violating the city's policy on workplace violence suggests that he's guilty of more than speaking too loudly. 

It also suggests the city needs to take a closer look at the issue of workplace bullying and make sure council members and employees understand what it is and why it's a concern -- why behavior that was acceptable 30 years ago might not be acceptable today. 

"It's the perception of the person it's happening to," Versocki said. "If the person feels threatened, that's what matters." 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at sfoss@dailygazette.net. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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