The growing problem of workplace bullying

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Bullying isn’t just confined to teens; adults in the workplace are targeted, too

I recently met a remarkable woman who has a lot to say about a kind of adult bullying that hits straights as well as LGBTS, that hurts men as well as women, that harms older and less connected workers the most, and that is so pervasive it’s called “The Silent Epidemic.”

Esque Walker, who lives in Corsicana and drove up to Dallas recently to give a Saturday morning presentation on workplace bullying, has an undergraduate degree in health information management, a masters in healthcare/health information management and a doctorate in public policy and administration.

She also has a score of certifications and areas of expertise.

She has been working diligently for the passage of the Texas Healthy Workplace Bill, authored by Dr. David Yamada of the Workplace Bullying Institute. It’s hard going, as you can imagine.

So far, Dr. Walker has been unable to even get a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry. Perhaps he is too busy campaigning. More likely, if his many aides have put her name and credentials before him, he has retreated into his good-hairyness.

Remember: He scraped through Texas A&M with Ds; she has a Ph.D.

But the governor is not the only impediment to getting this bill in place. So far, Dr. Walker and her associates have spoken with a great many Texas state senators and representatives. Not one has agreed to sponsor the bill.

Dr. Walker was herself the target of workplace bullying some years ago. But instead of simply taking the abuse — as most women and many men have done over the years — she aligned herself with others who understood the issues involved.

So, what are the issues?

To begin, Dr. Walker asserts that adult bullying is based on the bully’s need for power and control. It’s closely linked with competitiveness; the bully may resent the target’s appearance, education, personality or any number of facets of the other person’s being. He or she definitely does not want the target to advance.

So how do you know you are targeted, assuming the bully does not actually taunt or threaten you, as happens so often to children and teens?

You start with power disparity; the bully may have a higher status, longer tenure or perhaps corporate protectors to give him or her a sense of strength.

Then you look at four other criteria: repetition, duration, intensity and escalation.

Workplace bullying, says Dr. Walker, usually plays out in a predictable way. First, the bully criticizes you or gets someone above you in the pecking order to do so. Next, the bully involves others, usually four to six people who may see you as a threat or just want to curry favor with the boss.

Then, no matter what you do, it is not enough or not good enough, and coworkers are not allowed to “help” you. Eventually you are fired — after being told, “You are not a team player.”
Here’s how it looks by the numbers:

• 62 percent of bullies are men (who may bully other men, straight women or, of course, LGBTs).

• 58 percent of targets are women.

• 18 percent of adult suicides in the European Union are attributed to workplace bullying.

• An estimated 1 million Texans are bullied at work every year.

As the economy has worsened, pushing out older workers has become the norm; counselors report the escalation, although putting a number to the pain is virtually impossible.
So what to do if you are the target?

First, document everything, with specifics of person, time, place and comment or event. Second, do not go to your organization’s human resources person or department; HR works for the company and could care less about you.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your union representative — if applicable — can help; the latter may be especially important in education and medicine, where power disparities and bullying are common.

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WorkPlaceBullying.org) publishes a newsletter and other materials that can offer insight plus specifics. The Dallas Public Library has books by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie, Ph.D.’s known for their groundbreaking research and writing on workplace “jerks, weasels and snakes.”

And of course Out & Equal has done and continues doing great work on behalf of our community.

Final thoughts: The worst that can happen is that Texas will continue to allow vast amounts of cruelty in offices, factories, fields and stores. The best that could happen is that our next Legislature will pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, recognizing the problem, mandating anti-bullying education, and allowing victims to sue.

Meanwhile, if a workplace bully is making you frightened and depressed, find a counselor in whom you can confide. And don’t wait ’til tomorrow. Do it today.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

EurAsian excellence

Korean-born but European-bred, Kia’s Optima EX has luxury and speed at a bargain price

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
crwauto@aol.com

……………………….

’11 OPTIMA EX
Kia. 200 horsepower, 2.4 liter Inline-4 24/34-MPG city/hwy. As-tested price: $27,440

……………………….

The low point of Kia design was not the Sephia or Spectra — it was the Amati, which looked like some Saturday morning cartoon thought it would be cool to get a TownCar to cohabitate with an Accord and act out their affection upon America. It was a good car, but for prayer’s sake, somebody needed to get Kia’s design department drawing in the right direction.

That person turned out to be Peter Schreyer, who became chief design officer in 2006. Schreyer’s resume includes some stunners, including the 1996 Audi A3, the 1998 Audi TT, the 1998 Audi A6 and the 2006 VW Eos. That’s just what he gets credit for before landing at Kia. Since then, his team sculpted the beautiful 2010 Forte, 2010 Sportage, and this Optima. Who says good design has to be expensive? Like Michael Graves for Target, Schreyer graced masterful styling upon the masses while teaching Kia to speak with a European accent.

You can tell an expertly designed car by the attention to detail. The Optima’s design starts with a fairly conservative sedan with arched roofline, but designers spent considerable time sculpting the ridges on either side of the hood and fitting in a cool chrome band that runs from the base of the A-pillar, through the roof and into the top edge of the C-pillar.

INSIDE AND OUT | Kia’s signature pinched grille, top, remains intact, but the stylishly redesigned interior, above, harkens to the finest and most user-friendly of Euro roadsters, like the Saab.

Kia’s trademark pinched grille dominates the front, but makes friends with angled headlamps that give the car an aggressive face. A strong shoulderline anchors the bottom half of the car and helps break up the tall body. Tail lamps have dimension and resemble those on the new VW Passat.

I admire the exterior, but the inside is even better. A Saab-style wrap-around dashboard puts controls readily at hand and is enhanced with stitched sections on either side of the instrument cluster. No other mid-size sedan has a more perfectly-sized heated leather-wrapped steering wheel that also contains the Bluetooth phone controls. Heated and cooled leather front buckets are all-day comfortable; outboard rear passengers soak in the heat.

Nobody makes an easier-to-use touchscreen for the navigation, XM Satellite radio and USB-connected MP3 player. A panoramic sunroof only makes it easier to see the elegant bluish woodgrain on the doors and console. Schreyer apparently remembered the perfectly weighted gear selector from his Audi days, because the Optima gets its own.

So, what happens when an international designer meets world-class engineers? They create cars that not only look European, but drive that way, too. In fact, the front-drive Optima behaves like the last Saab 9-5, a personal favorite. Steering is nicely weighted and precise while the suspension is compliant, but firm. The chassis two-steps over rough pavement with nary a shudder, absorbing potholes without going weepy, while settling down for a long, quiet drive. You can feel the steering purring in your hands, telling you what the car’s thinking. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, and hill-start assist control aid the driver with his or her duties.

I thumped the Optima hard on a one-day road trip of more than 600 miles. Kia’s 200-HP 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine, connected to a 6-speed Sportmatic transmission, is pretty sweet. The torquey little lump of motivation feels mightier than its sword suggests. Step on it at 80 mph, and the six-speed transmission clips down a couple of cogs, sending the car off to wherever you point it.

Running at least 10 mph over the legal limit most of the way, it returned nearly 33-MPG. (The EPA claims 24/34-MPG city/hwy.) There are some just re-designed competitors from big-name automakers that would die to have this powertrain. Kia owners will barely notice the fuel bill or any noise from under the hood.

It used to be that people bought Kias because they apparently liked being jokes of the neighborhood. Those days left to the heap of old school thinking like respect for Charlie Sheen. The Ashton Kutcher era brings us an entire line of Kias that you’ll choose because you fall in love with them, like Korean Volkswagens. This, come to think of it, might be exactly Schreyer’s point.

Not that the Optima needs it, but it comes standard with Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Sans NAV, panoramic roof, and all of the heating and cooling for seats and steering wheels, the Optima EX starts at just $22,495. As equipped as a Swedish treat, expect to pay $27,440 -— a freakin’ steal for this dreamy ride. You’ll just have to wrench the keys from my warm knurled fingers. Speaking European won’t help your cause.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare rails against Gay Straight Alliance

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare, best known for his efforts to crack down on immigrants, recently used his Twitter account to rail against the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton (screen grabs above). O’Hare wrote on Twitter on March 23 that the GSA “promotes homosexuality and transgender lifestyles … to our children.” Then he asked children and parents in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, “what do you plan to do about it?” In addition to his immigration crackdowns, O’Hare has led a controversial campaign for Farmers Branch to start its own school district and secede from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, a proposal that will appear on the ballot in May. O’Hare is not seeking re-election. It’s unclear whether the GSA at R.L. Turner has been allowed to meet. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on this story.

2. A judge in California has ruled that Target can’t stop a grassroots group from circulating petitions in support of marriage equality outside its stores, according to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. Last Month the retail giant sought an injunction against Canvass for a Cause, saying the group was scaring away customers and creating the perception that the company supports marriage equality. Target is expected to appeal the judge’s decision.

3. The Delaware Senate approved a civil unions bill on Thursday by a vote of 13-6. The bill, which now goes to the House, would make Delaware the eighth state to legalize civil unions.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: HIV/AIDS progam not a priority for Texas Senate panel; Target sues gay group

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Things aren’t looking good for the Texas program that provides life-sustaining drugs to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS. The Texas HIV Medication Program, which needs an additional $19.2 million from the Legislature over the next two years, was not among the top priorities listed by a Senate budget panel that made its recommendations Thursday. If the Legislature doesn’t provide the money, the program will have to cut off enrollment or otherwise restrict access. “We’re basically making a decision regarding who lives and who dies,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Houston, who voted against the panel’s recommendations.

2. Servicemembers United reports that 261 people service members were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010. “While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high considering that the Secretary of Defense issued a directive half-way through the fiscal year to make it much harder for military units to discharge troops under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United. “Despite this law clearly being on its deathbed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because this policy.”

3. Target is suing an LGBT group in San Diego to stop it from gathering petitions in support of marriage equality outside eight of the retailer’s stores. Target says the group, Canvass for a Cause, is bothering customers, but the group says the company has anti-gay motives. Arguments in the case are set to begin today.

—  John Wright

What’s (also) Brewing: Lady Gaga nixes Target deal

Metro Weekly has reported that Lady Gaga has ended her new relationship with Target. Gaga was in talks with the retailer to release an exclusive edition of her upcoming album as well as negotiating their stance on donations to anti-gay politicians, but apparently that has dissolved. The report says no further details were available.

—  Rich Lopez

Anti-gay Walmart to add 12 stores in Dallas

Walmart plans to open 12 new stores in Dallas, according to a celebratory press release sent out by Mayor Tom Leppert’s office earlier today.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community doesn’t have much reason to celebrate.

Walmart scores a dismal 40 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, based on the company’s treatment of LGBT workers.

The world’s largest retailer was docked 15 points on the CEI for resisting shareholder efforts to add gender identity to it employment nondiscrimination policy. According to HRC, Walmart and ExxonMobil Corp. are the only two top 10 companies that have yet to add gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies.

Also, unlike the majority of Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees except where required by law.

Walmart withdrew its support for LGBT organizations in 2007 after conservative Christian groups threatened a boycott. And in 2008, CEO Mike Duke signed a petition in support of banning gay adoption in Arkansas.

In other words, we’d rather shop at Target.

The city’s full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Let’s Hear A Homosexual Executive At Target Defend The Company’s Reputation With The Gays

Daniel Duty is the Director of Enterprise Strategy at Target. In 1992, Duty was appointed by Target's CEO as a co-sponsor of the company's LGBT business council. Duty provides an insider's perspective on being gay at Target and how the company overcame public and media backlash for supporting a candidate that opposed gay rights. Here, he discusses the clusterfuck that is Target's relationship with the LGBT community after it donated money in a failed attempt to elect proud bigot Tom Emmer governor of Minnesota.

What is it like to be gay at Target? What is the general attitude towards LGBT people?

Duty: It's funny that you ask that question. I couldn't imagine working anywhere else as a gay person. I've had a fantastic career here for the last 10 years. I started many, many pay grades below where I am today. Target has been nothing but supportive of me and my career. As an out gay man who has been advocating very intentionally both inside and outside the company for inclusiveness, the only things that I've gotten back from Target are praise, reward, and support. And you could hear that story from people across this company, because I talk to them all the time.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Cop resigns over anti-gay posts; gay spider monkeys to get Valentine’s Day treat

Elton and David, gay spider monkeys

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A sheriff’s lieutenant in Colorado has resigned after he was caught posting racist and anti-gay comments on news websites using his work computer. For example, here’s what Lt. Jeff Engor of the Douglas County sheriff’s department wrote below a story about the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in December: “New miltary [sic] slogans: The few, the queer, the Marines! Butt Rangers lead the way! Be as gay as you can be! Aim for a high hard one, Air Force! Join the Navy, see naked men!” There’s no word on whether Engor was simultaneously crusing Manhunt on the same computer.

2. A zoo in the UK is preparing a special Valentine’s Day treat for two gay spider monkeys. The monkeys, who share an enclosure, have been a couple since last March and have since been renamed Elton and David, after Elton John and his partner. For their first Valentine’s Day together, the zoo has announced that it will be giving the monkeys a romantic meal of fruit and nuts. Wow, talk about a brilliant marketing scheme. No one had even heard of these monkeys before!

3. As we noted below, our new so-called anthem, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” was released this morning. But seriously, and we don’t mean to sound like haters here, but if it’s really a gay anthem, why is Gaga partnering for the release with Target?

—  John Wright

Useless headline of the day: Do teachers sometimes help target gay students?

Like there is a “no” option for this question?! (Montgomery Advertiser):

The 13-year-old Montgomery stu?dent expected to be bullied for being gay, but didn’t expect his teacher to encourage it.

He said that when a teacher ridi?culed him in class, telling him to “quit acting like a girl and start act?ing like a boy,” he was too stunned to react. When the local junior high school student talked to his mother about it, she hired an attorney who wrote a letter of complaint to the Montgomery school district.

The district’s staff attorney re?sponded in a letter that the teacher’s comment had been misrepresented and taking out of context and was not meant to be offensive.

“We wanted a written apology to my son and myself and we never got it,” said La’Daytra Walker, mother of the boy. “We received the state?ment from the staff attorney at the school, but they didn’t apologize.

And this is why headlines like the above are ridiculous. There are studies bearing out the fact that those in the best position to help bullied teens in many cases only jump in on the bullying.

After the publicity that fol?lowed several well-publi?cized cases of gays who com?mitted suicide after being bullied, research has been re?leased showing that authori?ty figures often either take part in the bullying or allow it:


* A Yale University study published this week found that gay teens are more like?ly than their straight peers to be punished for the same bad behavior. The study reports that gay and lesbian teens suffer at the hands of teach?ers, police and the courts.

* In Minnesota, an Anoka-Hennepin School District teacher who was accused of harassing a student he thought was gay is suing the state because the Depart?ment of Human Rights dis?closed his name in a report about the investigation. Walter Filson filed suit against the state of Minneso?ta in late December. Filson was one of two teachers ac?cused of harassing Alex Mer?ritt, who is not gay. Merritt got a ,000 settlement from the school district in 2009.

* A teenage activist noti?fied officials at every school in Arizona that they need to put a stop to the bullying of gay and lesbian students or face a lawsuit, according to the Arizona Republic. Caleb Laieski, 15, e-mailed the let?ter to more than 5,000 school administrators, city-council members and state lawmak?ers demanding improved measures to fight discrimi?nation.

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