Last updated November 20, 2015
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Workplace Bullying

Clinical and Organizational Perspectives

As attorneys with a combined experience of over 50 years in the field of employment law, we have seen dramatic changes in the protection the law affords to workers. Most of us have a sense of the dismal working conditions endemic at the beginning of the 20th century. Although worker-manned machinery facilitated mass production, tort law failed to protect the worker against serious bodily injury or death, and no compensation was afforded for injured and disabled employees. In response to deadly mine explosions and machinery accidents, workers’ compensation laws were enacted to protect against the hazards of an unsafe workplace. Not until the 1970s, with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, were employees entitled to environmental protections, including those against deadly chemical exposure, unsafe machinery, excessive temperatures, and workplace pollution.

Whereas safety issues were improving, America’s legal system essentially failed to address the lack of equitable opportunities for all. A major step forward occurred with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. It outlawed discrimination in nearly every aspect of American life. Enactment the following year of Title VII specifically targeted discrimination in the workplace. This legislation explicitly prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin and created an enforcement agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Next came the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which forbids employment discrimination against workers age 40 and older. Enforcement provisions were added to Title VII in 1972. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act expanded Title VII’s protections to citizens with physical and mental disabilities. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 brought further changes to Title VII litigation. Its greatest change was authorizing plaintiffs to recover punitive damages.

Notwithstanding the passage of the aforementioned laws for workplace protection over the past century, the tragic truth is that no law has been passed in the United States to protect workers against the pervasive existence of mobbing and bullying. Like an oasis in a legal desert, Judith Geneva Balcerzak’s work deals with this untamed issue. Until now, no body of work has approached this matter so effectively and thoroughly. Balcerzak addresses the sociological, economic, psychological, and physiological implications of the bullying threat with depth and clarity. Her analysis of the plight of victims of emotional abuse in the workplace is well documented and consistent with our observations and professional experience. Balcerzak has taken on this profound challenge and captured the heretofore elusive solutions.

Only a writer as astute as Balcerzak could present her readers with such an incisive, academic perspective on a workplace plague that has been tolerated far too long, infecting countless workers at all levels of the employment spectrum. Readers will find this definitive work indispensable to understanding the economic, social, and psychological impact of mobbing; its prevalence throughout the United States and globally; and the measures needed to eradicate the abuses and injuries resulting from such conduct. This book is a breakthrough in social work literature. May it provide the inspiration and impetus to craft state and federal legislation that will withstand political influence, corporate self-interest, and legal inequities that have impeded essential progress toward equal justice under the law.

Georgianna Regnier and Richard Regnier