Tonawanda News

February 27, 2014

Policy change to include bullying in NT

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda has updated its workplace violence policy first established in 2009, with plans now to address the issue of bullying, often linked to behavior in schools but increasingly coming to the forefront among adults, according to officials. 

The decision to amend the policy was brought to the city’s attention by several of its employees, according to city Attorney Shawn Nickerson, who said it was in part their input that led to the adjustment. 

“The real crux of the policy change is the bullying language that really just adds another layer to it,” Nickerson said. “The reason for these types of policies is to provide employees an avenue to report these types of things to their employers. We need to be cognizant of that and our employees need to be cognizant of that.” 

The new policy language is specific to incidents entailing an abusive work environment, which in large part stems from New York State legislation that also addresses bullying in the workplace. The amendment will create a chain of command beginning with the city’s various department heads but also keeping in place a direct link to the city attorney’s office.  

Katherine D. Alexander, assistant city attorney, who constructed the legalese related to the policy change, said the city was both responding to several employees requests to address the issue of bullying in the workplace and also attempting to blunt any future problems. 

“We just wanted to be prepared,” she said. “There aren’t any specific issues currently, but should something pop up we want employees to be able to know who they can report to and what steps to take so that they’re aware.” 

The issue of bullying has been a growing national topic, largely linked to school-aged children, though awareness is expanding to other generational subsets. 

The now well-known case of Miami Dolphin’s lineman Richie Incognito, who was suspended from the team for prolonged harassment of another player, Jonathan Martin, that included racial slurs and sexual innuendo has only added fire to the conversation of bullying.   

Alexander said the previous policy created a means for employees to lodge complaints directly to the city attorney’s office, though extended the policy to department heads may have a more immediate effect. 

“They are a direct supervisor so it makes sense,” she said. “It not only covers the workplace but vendors in the city. It will start there, notifying them first but they can come to our office as well.”