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Professor helps shape state’s workplace anti...

Professor helps shape state’s workplace anti-bullying law, policy

An MTSU business professor continues her push for a more civil workplace.

Dr. Jackie Gilbert, a professor of management in the MTSU Jones College of Business, joined forces with like-minded people across the state and nation to help craft legislation and guidelines that will help do just that within government agencies.

Dr. Jackie Gilbert, center in red, a professor of management in the MTSU Jones College of Business, joined other workplace civility advocates at the June 3 signing of the Healthy Workplace Act. Seated is Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed the bill into law. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Jackie Gilbert, shown at center in red, a professor of management in the MTSU Jones College of Business, joined other workplace civility advocates at the June 3 signing of the Healthy Workplace Act. Seated is Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed the bill into law. (Submitted photo)

Gilbert was part of a group of advocates who helped shape the Healthy Workplace Act, which was signed into law in June by Gov. Bill Haslam. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, grants legal protection to those government agencies that adopt a model policy to combat abusive behavior in the workplace or craft comparable guidelines of their own.

The law applies to any agency, county, metropolitan government, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state.

By enacting the law, Tennessee became the 26th state to introduce the Healthy Workplace Bill and the first to pass it. The national grassroots legislative movement began more than a decade ago to get workplace anti-bullying laws passed in every state.

“Respectful interaction at work is a priority,” said Gilbert, who has incorporated anti-bullying concepts into her teaching. “This law is going to set the stage for providing some guidance for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable at work.”

Dr. Jackie Gilbert

Gilbert is a member of Tennessee Healthy Workplace Advocates, which worked toward passage of the bill. She was recently appointed to serve on a workplace civility workgroup that is advising the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, or TACIR, on developing a model policy for Tennessee’s state and local governments. The legislation requires that a model be in place by March 15, 2015.

Lynnisse Roehrich-Patrick, TACIR’s executive director, is appreciative of Gilbert’s contribution to this effort.

“Dr. Gilbert brings an academic perspective that is a welcome addition to our work group and complements the expertise of the public administration, legal, and human resource professionals on the team,” Roehrich-Patrick said. “Her knowledge of effective methods to prevent abusive conduct and her commitment to workplace civility are essential to their work.”

Government employers can create their own policy if it helps employers recognize and respond to abusive conduct, and prevents retaliation against any reporting employee. Abusive conduct is defined as repeated verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation or work sabotage.

To craft the legislation, Parkinson convened a think tank that included Gilbert; Arlene Martin-Norman, co-coordinator, Tennessee Healthy Workplace Advocates; Dr. Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute; Dr. David Yamada, professor of law at Suffolk University and director of the New Workplace Institute; John McManus, legislative liaison and public information officer at the Tennessee Department of Human Resources; Michelle Gaskin, attorney for the Tennessee General Assembly; and Sarah Adair, governmental affairs director at the Tennessee State Employees’ Association.

Earlier this year, Gilbert was named a founding fellow to the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse. In June, she conducted a workshop on the Healthy Workplace Act at a Tennessee State Employees’ Association assembly in Murfreesboro.

For more information about the TACIR workgroup, visit http://bit.ly/tacir-civility.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)


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