May 31, 2007

The financial cost - Don't worry, universities waste taxpayer's money...

Workplace bullying contributes to a total loss of 18 million working days every year in the UK. This equates to a cost of around £2 billion each year to UK industry...

Bullying and harassment causes huge damage to a corporate brand and its employees. 30-50% of stress related illnesses stem from workplace bullying. Work performance from individuals can suffer greatly as they feel unable to operate in such a stressful environment. From a managerial position, bullying is an abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees. From a peer, it can be persistent unacceptable behaviour that is offensive and intimidating. Bullying can often turn into malicious, insulting and humiliating behaviour that diminishes an individual’s confidence and destroys their self belief...

Through group discussions, organisations were also able to openly discuss the challenges they have faced when dealing with bullying and harassment and possible solutions. The biggest challenges that came to light were:

• Educating managers who are oblivious to their legal responsibilities and ensuring they are aware of policies

• Acknowledging that bullying is taking place

• The difference between policies and the actual working environment

• Removing stereotypes across gender, race, religion, sexual preference, disability etc

• Attracting more women into male dominated industries

The best practise solutions that stemmed from these discussions included:

• Proper investigation procedures, starting at grass roots level. Clear pathways so employees and employers know the core values of an organisation and their code of conduct

• Buy in from senior management level. Commitment from senior level leads to a cascade down through an organisation.
• Staff associations / network groups
• Taking responsibility and challenging the bullying to stamp it out

...With the cost of a tribunal process estimated at around £40,000, and the cost of replacing an employee estimated at anywhere between £8,500 and up to two to three times that person’s salary, organisations simply cannot afford to ignore the issue of bullying...


From HEFCE we know: 'Higher education institutions are legally independent corporate bodies. Their councils or boards of governors are responsible for the effective management and future development of their affairs. They are ultimately responsible for all affairs of the institution.' And 'Staff complainants should seek advice through their union representative. All institutions have grievance and whistleblowing procedures.' Wow!

In other words, financial mismanagement due to workplace bullying - and the waste of taxpayer's money - are of no interest to HEFCE. Has HEFCE ever calculated how much money is lost through workplace bullying in HEIs? Has HECFE ever held accountable any HEI in this respect?

HEFCE's mission statement: '
Working in partnership, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research, meeting the diverse needs of students, the economy and society.' HEFCE you are failing your own mission.

May 30, 2007

Our message to UCU's inaugural Congress...

UCU's inaugural Congress meeting takes place 30 May - 1 June 2007 at the Bournemouth International Centre. This includes meetings of the higher education and further education sector conferences.

Congress and sector conferences are the supreme policy making bodies of the union. Congress decides policy on all matters not particular to any sector; sector conferences decide policy on all professional and employment matters particular to a sector, subject to any fundamental principles of policy appropriate to and established by congress.

Our message to all delegates (Congress and Sector conferences) on workplace bullying in academia, is simple...

A trip down memory lane June 3rd 06 from postings on this blog - one year ago...

Quotes from emails:

'...After 2-3 years of inaction and no support from my union, with the last few months on medication and receiving mental health councelling, all this while on suspension because I tried to expose institutionalised bullying, and while I watch the serial bully being promoted and taking over my office, I very reluctantly decided to write to the top persons in my union a very polite letter reminding them that I have not received the support I needed. This is the reply I received: "Our union does not have a specialist on workplace bullying to deal with your case now. We do not normally use any specialist consultant..."

'...After the TUC (Trades Union Congress) I will be writing to the ILO, and then last I will resign my union membership making sure that the media know why...'

'...The trade unions already see, realise, understand the plague of bullying in the workplace. They are quite happy with it. That is the way things are meant to be. One man's [or woman's] workplace bullying is another man's [or woman's] strong management / flexible workforce mantra...'

'...It is one thing to have my employers not understanding bullying, and it is another thing if the union itself is ignorant...'

'...I have no doubt that unions and TUC are hopeless [with workplace bullying]. I still think it is worthwhile showing the world how hopeless they are - at a cost of a stamp...'

'...The TUC general secretary will say that he has no powers to intervene in the affairs of an individual trade union. The TUC is simply the trade union's trade union... I would have been relatively happier if my trade union had maintained indifference. They ended up working against me by destroying and delaying documents, passing confidential info to my employers, all sorts of things...'

'...I have first hand experience of one particular union that has sat on its hands twice, in cases I have seen and been involved in. That union of shame is XXXXXX. No wonder so many health workers live in fear, there is no protection whatsoever...'

'...The actions of my union have damaged my mental health and sense of trust far worse that the bullying of my employer...'

How we cope with the pain...

Feeling mistreated can hurt, especially when it comes to the heart (1). An 11-year study of 8000 senior civil servants in London found that those who strongly agreed with the statement "I often have the feeling that I am being treated unfairly" had an increased risk of heart attack (hat tip pharmagossip ).

Out of the 567 people who agreed very strongly with this statement, 51 suffered a heart attack or severe chest pains, known as angina. By comparison, 64 out of the 966 people
who felt mild mistreatment had these heart problems. The results appear in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2,3).

There is growing evidence that despair can have all sorts of ill effects on the body (4, 5). Wrongly suspended and bullied doctors frequently suffer permanent ill health, and many have committed suicide or have experienced myocardial events (6, 7).

Doctors who have been suspended (often for whistleblowing) have a mortality rate of over 2%. This is higher than the mortality rate for open cardiac surgery and is entirely induced by employers. The mortality falls principally into two categories. (a) clinical depression ending in suicide and (b) myocardial infarction. Myocardial infarction is four times more common among suspended doctors than other doctors of the same age and sex. It has been recommended that affected individuals should take low dose asprin to reduce the risk of cardiac events (7).

This posting is dedicated to my pathology colleague, Dr Chris Chapman who died on 4/11/98 at the age of 56. Chris Chapman was a Principal Biochemist at Leeds General Infirmary working in conjunction with Leeds University, was made redundant after alleging corruption and fraud in the research being carried out. He was sacked the day before his 50th birthday to avoid paying him pension. He was re- instated following his legal victory. In a saga characterised by whitewash and obfuscation, inquiries were held to clarify the facts before a number of senior academics were given early retirement and replaced. However, this was too late for Chris.

See also
  • Jean Lennane. The canary down the mine: what whistleblowers' health tells us about their environment [Link]
  • Lennane K.J. "Whistleblowing": a health issue. British Medical Journal, 1993. 307: 667-670 [Link]
  • Yamey G. Editorial: Protecting whistleblowers. Employers should respond to the message, not shoot the messenger BMJ 2000;320:70-71 [Link]
From: Scientific Misconduct Blog: Take good care of yourself - the health hazards of truthtelling.

Happy Birthday...

This blog is one year old. No time to celebrate and little to be proud of. During this time we had around 20000 visits from 60 different countries, the majority of which came from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. On average we receive every week one story of abuse, harassment or bullying in academia - mostly by managers. The pattern is well-known and well-established. The contributors to this blog wish to thank you all for your support. We now have some voice and a very long way to go...

May 29, 2007

Judgements of UK Employment Appeal Tribunals involving universities

• Association of University Teachers

UKEATS/0072/05 Practice -and- Procedure / Striking-out/dismissal - DR L LIU -and- THE ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS - THE HONOURABLE LADY SMITH 07/02/2007.

UKEATPA/0666/05 Practice -and- Procedure / Appellate jurisdiction/Reasons/Burns-Barke - MR S DEMAN -and- (1) ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS (2) MR D TRIESMAN (3) MR B EVERETT (4) DR G TALBOT (5) DR J DE GROOT - HIS HONOUR JUDGE McMULLEN QC - 26/09/2005.

EAT/142/03 & EAT/266/03 Practice -and- Procedure / Estoppel or Abuse of Process - MR SURESH DEMAN -and- (1) THE ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS (2) DR D TRIESMAN (2) MR P COTTERELL (3) MR A KETT (4) MR P MITCHELL - MR RECORDER LUBA QC - 02/07/2003.

E/746/99 Race Discrimination / Inferring discrimination - DR S DEMAN -and- ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS AND OTHERS - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE LINDSAY (P) - 05/02/2002.

• Bradford

UKEAT/572/03 Race Discrimination / Direct - MR S DEMAN -and- (1) UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD (2) MR P BUNTING (3) MR S R ICE-BIRCHALL - His Hon Judge BIRTLES QC - 05/11/2003.

EAT/597/02 Practice and Procedure / Bias, misconduct and procedural irregularity - MR S DEMAN -and- (1) UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD (2) PROFESSOR GRACE ALDERSON - His Hon Judge J BURKE QC - 22/05/2003.

• Brighton

EAT/747/02 Disability Discrimination / Disability - UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON -and- MS T TABARY-PETERSSEN - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE WALL - 09/06/2003.

EAT/0637/00 Unfair Dismissal / Reason for dismissal including substantial other reason - MR N G WILSON -and- UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE LINDSAY (PRESIDENT) - 09/09/2001.

• Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust


• Brunel University

UKEAT/0307/06 Practice -and- Procedure / Admissibility of evidence - (1) BRUNEL UNIVERSITY (2) PROFESSOR SCHWARTZ -and- (1) PROFESSOR VASEGHI (2) MS G WEBSTER - HIS HONOUR JUDGE ANSELL - 17/08/2006.

UKEAT/0757/04/DA & UKEAT/0222/05/DA Trade Union Rights / Action short of dismissal - PROFESSOR SAEED VASEGHI -and- BRUNEL UNIVERSITY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE PUGSLEY - 12/08/2005.

UKEAT/0730/04 Race Discrimination / Burden of proof - MS G WEBSTER -and- BRUNEL UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BURTON - 14/12/2004.

UKEAT/0757/04/DA Trade Union Rights / Action short of dismissal - PROFESSOR SAEED VASEGHI -and- BRUNEL UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BURTON - 08/12/2004.

• Canterbury Christ Church


• City University


EAT/1065/02 Unfair Dismissal / Other - MR S DEAMAN -and- CITY UNIVERSITY - HIS HON JUDGE McMULLEN QC - 18/10/2002.

• East London

UKEAT/0495/04 Practice -and- Procedure / Compromise - UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON -and- DR D HINTON - HIS HONOUR JUDGE ANSELL - 24/09/2004.

• Edinburgh

EATS/0020/03 Practice -and- Procedure / Application/Claim - MRS ANNE MURRAY or FINLAY -and- UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH - THE HONOURABLE LORD JOHNSTON - 29/08/2003.

• Glasgow

EATS/0018/05 Practice -and- Procedure / Application/Claim - DR ABDOLREZA AHARI -and- (1) UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW (2) HCI (SCOTLAND) LTD - HIS HONOUR JUDGE McMULLEN QC - 31/08/2005.


EAT/74/01 Procedural Issues / Employment Tribunal - UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW -and- MR RAHUL JINDAL - THE HONOURABLE LORD JOHNSTON - 31/05/2001.

• Grampian University Hospital Trust

EAT/291/02 Unfair Dismissal / Procedural fairness/automatically unfair dismissal - MRS MYRA H NIXON -and- GRAMPIAN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS TRUST - THE HONOURABLE LORD JOHNSTON - 21/10/2002.

• Greenwich

UKEAT/0875/03 Practice -and- Procedure / Compromise - MRS J MAYO-DEMAN - UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH & OTHERS - HIS HONOUR JUDGE J R REID QC - 15/06/2005.

EAT/1114/02 Practice -and- Procedure / Costs - DR S M VAEZI-NEJAD -and- UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH - His Hon Judge D M Levy QC - 11/07/2003.

EAT/1114/02 Practice -and- Procedure / Striking-out/dismissal - DR S M VAEZI-NEJAD -and- UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH - His Hon Judge D M Levy QC - 11/07/2003.


EAT/882/02 Sex Discrimination / Direct - MS S MILNER -and- THE UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH - MR COMMISSIONER HOWELL QC - 11/03/2003.

• Huddersfield

EAT/596/02 Sex Discrimination / Burden of proof - THE UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD -and- DR P R WOLFF - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BURTON (P) - 16/07/2003.

• Kent at Canterbury

EAT/474/02 Time Limits / (no sub-topic) - MS M FITZGERALD - UNIVERSITY OF KENT AT CANTERBURY - HIS HON JUDGE CLARK - 18/03/2003.

• Kingston University

UKEAT/0008/07 Sex Discrimination / Victimisation - DR R BENVENISTE -and- KINGSTON UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE UNDERHILL - 28/03/2007.

UKEAT/0393/05 Practice -and- Procedure / (no sub-topic) - DR R BENEVISTE -and- KINGSTON UNIVERSITY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE RICHARDSON - 21/12/2005.

• Leicester

EAT/1419/99 Procedural Issues / Employment Tribunal - MS R SUNLEY -and- UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE HOOPER - 15/03/2001.

• Lincolnshire and Humberside

EAT/775/00 & EAT/1444/00 Unfair Dismissal / Reason for dismissal including substantial other reason - UNIVERSITY OF LINCOLNSHIRE & HUMBERSIDE -and- MR T LANE - MR COMMISSIONER HOWELL QC - 13/12/2001.

• London

UKEAT/0118/06 & UKEAT/0119/06 Race Discrimination / Victimisation - DR J MEHTA -and- UNIVERSITY OF LONDON & OTHERS - HIS HONOUR JUDGE BURKE QC - 21/06/2006.


EAT/1409/01 Race Discrimination / Direct - MR P SINGH -and- UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS TRUST - His Hon Judge J BURKE QC - 27/09/2002.

• London Guildhall

EAT/664/98 Race Discrimination / Direct - MR D K DASS -and- LONDON GUILDHALL UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MORISON (P) - 21/06/1999.

• London Metropolitan University


UKEAT/0252/06 Race Discrimination / Victimisation - MR C HENRY -and- LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY HIS HONOUR JUDGE BURKE QC - 07/07/2006.


UKEAT/0846/03 Race Discrimination / Indirect - MRS S H LANE -and- LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE D SEROTA QC - 28/10/2004.

• London South Bank

EAT/279/03 & EAT/280/03 Race Discrimination / Aiding -and- abetting - (1) MR A ANYANWU (2) MR O EBUZOEME -and- (1) MR O EBUZOEME (2) LONDON SOUTH BANK STUDENT UNION (3) LONDON SOUTH BANK UNIVERSITY - HIS HON JUDGE D SEROTA QC - 11/08/2003.

• Luton

EAT/865/99 Unfair Dismissal / Procedural fairness/automatically unfair dismissal - MRS P IGBOLEKWO -and- 1) THE UNIVERSITY OF LUTON 2) MRS B BURDEN - HIS HONOUR JUDGE D M LEVY QC - 18/12/2000.

• Manchester Metropolitan

EAT/640/99 Disability Discrimination / Reasonable adjustments - DR R E J RUDZKI -and- MANCHESTER METROPOLITIAN UNIVERSITY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE PETER CLARK - 27/06/2000.

• Middlesex


• Napier University


• Oxford

EAT/294/02 Race Discrimination / Inferring discrimination - DR C C ANYA -and- (1) UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD (2) DR S G ROBERTS - HIS HON JUDGE ANSELL - 04/02/2003.

• St Andrews

UKEATS/0025/05/RN Unfair Dismissal / Constructive dismissal - MR DECLAN QUIGLEY -and- UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREW - THE HONOURABLE LADY SMITH - 09/08/2006.

• St Martin and St John

UKEAT/0196/06 Part Time Workers / (no sub-topic) - MRS M R DENNISON -and- THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ST MARK AND ST JOHN & OTHERS - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE ELIAS (President) - 19/07/2006.

• Sheffield

UKEAT/0304/05 Race Discrimination / Victimisation - MR S DEMAN -and- (1) PROFESSOR DAVID OWEN (2) THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BEAN - 15/03/2006.

EAT/201/01 Procedural Issues / Employment Tribunal - DR A M S ZALZALA -and- UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD - HIS HON JUDGE CLARK - 29/11/2002.

• Sheffield Hallam

EAT/6/99 Disability Discrimination / Reasonable adjustments - MR M MURPHY -and- SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE PETER CLARK - 11/01/2000.

• South Bank

UKEAT/0232/05 Disability Discrimination / Justification - MS K GUNNESS -and- SOUTH BANK UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BURTON - 25/07/2005.

• Southampton

UKEAT/0574/05 Practice -and- Procedure / Disclosure - UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON -and- DR C K KELLY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE RICHARDSON - 14/11/2005.

• Staffordshire

EAT/0322/00 Disability Discrimination / Disability -and- STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE LINDSAY (PRESIDENT) - 11/12/2001.

• Strathclyde

EATS/0003/02 Procedural Issues / Employment Appeal Tribunal - MR SHASHI KUMAR -and- UNIVERSITY OF STRATHCLYDE & 3 ORS - THE HONOURABLE LORD JOHNSTON - 26/06/2002.

• Sunderland

EAT/1341/01 Race Discrimination / Indirect - DR R E RUDZKI -and- UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND - HIS HON JUDGE J R REID QC - 19/07/2002.

• Surrey

UKEAT/0045/03 Disability Discrimination / Disability - MRS A OLDFIELD -and- UNIVERSITY OF SURREY - His Hon Judge J BURKE QC - 11/06/2003.

EAT/462/00 Disability Discrimination / Disability - DR G A MOWAT-BROWN -and- UNIVERSITY OF SURREY - HIS HONOUR JUDGE J R REID QC - 10/12/2001.

• Thames Valley University

UKEAT/0479/06 Contract of Employment / Wrongful dismissal - DR Z GUERNINA -and- THAMES VALLEY UNIVERSITY - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE ELIAS (PRESIDENT) - 21/12/2006.

• University College London


EAT/962/95 EAT/1236/95 EAT/717/96 Contract of Employment / Breach of Contract - URSULA RINIKER -and- UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON - THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MORISON (P) - 23/08/1999.

• Victoria University of Manchester


EAT/1375/98 Procedural Issues / Employment Tribunal - MR S DEMAN -and- VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER - HIS HONOUR JUDGE PETER CLARK - 28/09/1998.

• Warwick


UKEAT/0822/03 Unfair Dismissal / Reasonableness of dismissal - MR EDWARD NEEDHAM -and- UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK - THE HONOURABLE MRS JUSTICE COX - 17/03/2004.
The above are some cases that made it to the Employment Tribunal stage. How many have never made it?

May 28, 2007

A cult figure...

According to ‘’ – the online magazine for business and HR personnel: An employment lawyer has gained a cult business after suggesting on his blog that the unfair dismissal law should be scrapped. Mark Ellis, a solicitor at business consultancy Ellis Whittam (who provide corporate support), said the law benefited lawyers and staff at the expense of the UK economy.

"Are the feelings and the personal hardship suffered by an individual employee more important than the success and happiness of UK plc?" he posted earlier this month. There were 41,832 unfair dismissal claims in 2005-06, according to the Employment Tribunal Service. But Ellis told Personnel Today that if organisations were able to sack people they didn't like, productivity would soar, and there would be more work and money for everyone.

"If an employer doesn't like someone - as long as it is not a case of discrimination - then why should they have to go through a six-month procedure to tick the right boxes?" he said. An increasing number of "litigious employees" and no-win, no-fee lawyers were taking advantage of employment laws, he added.

Employers leapt to agree, and there was even a comment - albeit non-committal - from Conservative Leader David Cameron's office. And Peter Schofield, director of legal and employment affairs at manufacturers' body the EEF, told Personnel Today: "There is a legal regulation for almost every detail of the employment relationship."

We suspect that Mr Ellis’s ‘cult’ status does not come from the thousands (?) of victims/targets of workplace bullying who ‘experienced’ what a recent ACAS study highlighted: ‘… how claimants dismissed as “futile” internal grievance procedures aimed at resolving disputes within organisations. Complaints were made about how the submission of a grievance by an employee was often triggered by disciplinary action by employers and how they could work against achieving a satisfactory resolution; it was also thought to be difficult to find colleagues to represent them, that there were often unnecessary delays and the involvement of unsuitable managers who, in a number of cases, were felt to have been complicit or active in the original discrimination experience.’

No, his ‘cult’ status comes from the magazine ‘’ which represents the interests of HR, and employers. The role of HR is well documented – in the vast majority of cases, human resources do not rock the boat and rubber-stamp the unfair application of internal procedures - they often collude with the employer and participate in such procedures. In any case, their job is on the line. And of course, the ‘cult’ status is supported by employers who in effect are judge and jury when it comes down to ACAS guidelines in dealing with internal disciplinary procedures.

The CIPD (Charted Institute of Personnel Development) - the professional body for those involved in the management and development of people – have guidelines for their staff on how to do the right things when dealing with internal procedures, but have never held accountable any of their members for not doing so…

These points are of no interest to Mr Ellis. His emphasis is not on making sure that ACAS guidelines are followed properly, but rather how some cases that end up in Employment Tribunals are often trivial, and as such are slowing down UK businesses. Nor does Mr Ellis deal with the effects of unfair dismissals on victims of workplace bullying. It is like if PTSD does not exist. In many ways, Mr Ellis represents the interests of business – his clients. We also suspect that Mr Ellis has not been in touch with the Andrea Adams Trust to get the picture from a different perspective.

Mr Ellis tries to be ‘pioneering’ in his blog by suggesting that the recent review comissioned by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) was his idea; Michael Gibbons – the person comissioned to write the report on the efficacy of the 2004 Regulations – was informed by Mr Ellis’s blog. No need to comment on such claims to fame, but worthwhile quoting what the DTI states:

‘…This consultation sets out a package of measures for taking forward the recommendations of the Gibbons review of employment dispute resolution in Great Britain. The review was set up to look at the options for simplifying and improving all aspects of employment dispute resolution, to make the system work better for employers and employees. It looked at all aspects of the system, including the existing legal requirements, how employment tribunals work, and the scope for new initiatives to help resolve disputes at an earlier stage.

The consultation is seeking views on a package of measures to help solve employment disputes successfully in the workplace so that:

• Productivity is raised through improved workplace relations.
• Access to justice is ensured for employees and employers.
• The cost of resolving disputes is reduced for all parties.
• Disputes are resolved swiftly before they escalate.

The specific measures being consulted on include repealing the current statutory dispute resolution procedures; providing better help and guidance to resolve disputes at an earlier stage; and improving how employment tribunals work.’

We suspect that in principal no victim of workplace bullying has any problems with the application of fair and impartial internal moderation to resolve issues before escalation. One of the failings of the current system is indeed the fact that the vast majority of employers refuse to engage in the services of external independent consultans – there is no obligaiton on them to do so, a point missed completely by Mr Ellis, who somehow assumes that the major failing of the current system is an increasing number of "litigious employees" and no-win, no-fee lawyers taking advantage of employment laws. Why would Mr Ellis bite the hand that feeds him and critique employers for not following properly ACAS guidelines and not exercising leadership qualities in brining in independent consultants to weed out management bullying?

The DTI is calling for interested parties to respond to the review by 20 June 2007. A response can be submitted by letter, fax or email to:

Dispute Resolution Review Team
Department of Trade and Industry
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET
Tel: 020 7215 5000
Fax: 020 7215 0168

Regarding Mr Ellis’s ‘cult’ status, we are confident that victims of workplace bullying have a different opinion. In his world the victims of workplace bullying are dealt with as if they have no emotions, as if unfair dismissals have no health effects - only the interests of his corporate clients exist. A real cult figure...

May 27, 2007

Whistleblower's 'reasonable belief' is sufficient: Babula v Waltham Forest College [2007] EWCA Civ 174


Mr Babula was a college lecturer. He became concerned that his predecessor had made remarks to students that had incited racial hatred. When he reported his concerns to the college he was ignored, so he decided that he had no option but to report the matter to the police - he 'blew the whistle'.

Babula claimed that the college's treatment of him following this disclosure left him with no alternative but to resign. He brought a claim for unfair (constructive) dismissal contending that the disclosure he made was a protected disclosure under section 43 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The tribunal struck out Babula's claim, stating that it was bound by the Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) decision in Kraus v Penna, which the tribunal stated was authority for the proposition that a disclosure is not a qualifying disclosure unless a criminal offence, or legal obligation, capable of breach actually existed. The tribunal said the lecturer's comments were incitement to religious hatred, not racial hatred. There was no such offence at the time, so Babula's disclosure could not be protected.

As the college's equal opportunities policy did not refer to religious discrimination, Babula failed to show that the college was likely to fail to comply with a legal obligation. The tribunal said he could not, therefore, have reasonably believed that a criminal offence would be committed or a legal obligation breached so there was no whistleblowing claim. The EAT dismissed Babula's appeal, but he appealed to the Court of Appeal.


The Court of Appeal allowed Babula's appeal, holding that Kraus v Penna was wrong in law and should no longer be followed.

In determining whether a disclosure is a qualifying disclosure, the whistleblower must show that they reasonably believed their disclosure tends to show that a criminal offence is likely to be committed, or legal obligation breached. What is relevant is the whistleblower's reasonable belief and not whether or not they are right.

The fact the whistleblower may be wrong is not relevant, provided their belief is reasonable and the disclosure to their employer is made in good faith

Babula had identified a criminal offence (incitement to racial hatred) and a legal obligation (the college's equal opportunities policy). The question was whether or not he had a reasonable belief that the criminal offence had been or was going to be committed, or that the legal obligation had been or was likely to be breached. As his belief was reasonable, his disclosure was protected.

Key implications

This case shows that a whistleblower's belief may be reasonable even though it turns out to be wrong. Whether or not the whistleblower's belief is reasonable is a matter for the tribunal to determine.

The purpose of the whistleblowing legislation is to encourage employees to come forward and make disclosures of information that are in the public interest. To expect employees to have detailed legal knowledge sufficient to determine whether in fact an offence is likely to be committed, or legal obligation breached, works against the purpose of the legislation


My dream...

Utterly Completely Useless (UCU)

May 25, 2007

Employers see workplace discrimination victims as nuisances

A new report from the conciliation service ACAS shows that people who complain at work about discrimination on grounds of religion or belief or sexual orientation often end up being treated as nuisances rather than victims. Employees who have tried to resolve disputes over discrimination under new equality regulations have ended up facing demotion, dismissal, career changes, mental health problems including depression or anxiety, financial difficulties, relationship problems and having to move house. Some even contemplated suicide.

In the first study of the impact of the employment equality regulations on sexual orientation and religion or belief introduced in 2003, research by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), on behalf of ACAS, suggests internal workplace grievance procedures are ‘flawed’ and do not provide a way to resolve these issues. This may encourage more people to resort to an employment tribunal.

Analysis by ACAS shows that between January 2004 and September 2006, 470 individuals brought Employment Tribunal claims where the main allegation concerned discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and 461 brought cases where discrimination on grounds of religion or belief was the main claim. Two-thirds of claims were brought by men.

From in-depth interviews with claimants it was found that sexual orientation discrimination cases were typically based on claims of bullying and harassment, including verbal abuse, physical assaults and unfair treatment by managers. This had led to disciplinary action or demotion for poor work performance until the claimant felt they had no option but to resign.

For religion and belief cases, claims most commonly related to terms and conditions of work that made the observance of religious practices more difficult – such as holiday arrangements. There were also examples of organisations with a religious ethos reportedly discriminating in areas such as promotion on the basis that the claimant did not have a religion or was from a different faith.

The study highlighted how claimants dismissed as “futile” internal grievance procedures aimed at resolving disputes within organisations. Complaints were made about how the submission of a grievance by an employee was often triggered by disciplinary action by employers and how they could work against achieving a satisfactory resolution; it was also thought to be difficult to find colleagues to represent them, that there were often unnecessary delays and the involvement of unsuitable managers who, in a number of cases, were felt to have been complicit or active in the original discrimination experience.

Overall, claimants felt they did not receive a fair hearing at internal grievance procedures. The cost of obtaining representation was seen to be a significant barrier in pursuing claims, and the lack of proper representation and the necessary understanding of the ‘language of the law’ was seen as being a severe disadvantage in obtaining justice from employment tribunals.

IES author Ann Denvir said “One strong theme which emerged from both sets of claimants was the tendency of their employers to respond to their complaints by seeing them as the problem, rather than the victim of unfair treatment.

“But despite the sometimes difficult experiences of submitting an employment tribunals claim many felt the process allowed them to defend against discrimination in a way they felt unable to within the workplace and to make an important symbolic gesture. Justice rather than financial compensation was seen as being the main motivation. Overall, the interviews with claimants highlighted the crucial importance of good independent advice and representation.


Here you have it: 'Beware Big Brother paranoia 1'

From the Times Higher Education Supplement. Letter to the Editors, published 25 May 2007.

'The tone of your story "Staff see red over online policing" (May 18) was alarmist and misdirected, as it gave the impression that higher education managers, administrators, personnel and marketing staff have nothing better to do than trawl through e-mails, blogs and discussion groups looking for evidence of dissent.

Anyone would think that we are run by the
Staatssicherheitsdienst. On the contrary, these important workers simply do not have the time for that sort of thing, even if they wanted to.

If criticism does come to the attention of the authorities, then it has probably been reported to them by academic colleagues. The motives are not hard to fathom: envy, score-settling, career advancement, or a wish to appear compliant to power. These passions exist in all societies, so why should academe be any different?

Stoking paranoid fantasies of the omnipotent gaze of power simply encourages narcissism. Why not "out" academics who perpetuate it - as a prelude to some warm and fuzzy truth and reconciliation, of course.

Jeremy Valentine
, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh'
So there you have it... All you targets/victims of workplace bullying that dare to imply that managers and other important persons in academic hierarchies have nothing better to do than trawl through emails, do so because of 'envy, score-settling, career advancement, or a wish to appear compliant to power'. So there you go...

And if this is not enough, if you have lost your job under tragic circumstances, if you suffer from PTSD or work-related stress due to workplace bullying - and you dare to complain - oh, well, you should be 'outted' because you are perpetuating a fantasy!

My dear lovely Dr Jeremy, perhaps you should become a bit more familiar with the literature on workplace bullying, for you may discover that it is the competent, committed and efficient academics who fall victims of workplace bullying. The bullies tend to be insecure, incompetent and inefficient. It is the latter that undermine the former and not the other way around.

And while you are at it, you may also want to read a recent publication titled: 'Good Practice Guide for Higher Education Institutions on Dealing with Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace'. Why the need for this guide?

And if you are still in the mood, read the following interesting story about 'important' persons checking emails. Paranoia or ignorance?

May 24, 2007

HEFCE: People management self-assessment tool

The self-assessment tool was developed by the Universities Personnel Association and the SCOP Personnel Network, to measure progress in people management in the HE sector...

1. Remuneration and fair employment

The institution has:
a. HR staff skilled in providing advice and support on pay, rewards and employment
b. HR staff skilled in or receiving skilled support in job evaluation
c. Expertise on equal opportunities and diversity...
f. Regular reviews of equal opportunities and diversity policies and practice...
k. Schemes for recognition and reward of individual or team excellence in teaching and learning effectiveness...

The institution achieves:
b. Staff who feel motivated and satisfied in their work
c. Staff who believe the institution is a fair employer – there is a healthy psychological contract...
h. Investors in People status (in parts or for the whole institution)
i. Staff who feel there are opportunities for teaching career progression...

The institution avoids or effectively manages the risks associated with:
a. Industrial tribunal or legal cases brought by staff for unfair dismissal, unfair employment practice or discrimination (including equal pay claims)
b. Negative publicity about unfair or discriminatory employment
c. Being seen as having poor terms and conditions of employment compared with other employers (locally, nationally and/or internationally)...

2. Staff recruitment and retention

The institution undertakes/has undertaken:
a. Recruitment and selection guided by clear policies and procedures
b. Exit interviews with staff who leave
c. Skills audits of future workforce needs
d. Monitoring and evaluation of:
- the service provided on staff recruitment (e.g. managers’ views on recruitment practice) on a regular basis
- staff turnover
- staff views on employment...

4. Staff development and skills needs

The institution has:
a. Managers and staff aware of staff development processes within the institution
b. Investment in learning and staff development
c. Expertise in staff development
d. Staff skilled in job design and work organisation (or access to these skills externally) to support staff development through job re-design and enrichment...

The institution avoids or effectively manages risk associated with:
a. Staff leaving because of inadequate opportunities provided for staff development and learning
b. Poorly focused staff development that leads to no appreciable gains for the individual and the institution
c. Lack of take-up of staff development provisions available
d. Under-resourcing of staff development
e. Missed market or programme development opportunities because of lack of appropriate skills or expertise amongst staff...

5. Leadership, involvement and change management

...The institution avoids or effectively manages risk associated with:
a. Industrial relations disputes
b. Lack of commitment to change and improved performance at different levels in the institution
c. Staff perceiving a lack of effective leadership in the institution
d. Staff feeling poorly informed and not consulted about changes made in the institution...

The institution avoids or effectively manages risk associated with:
a. Legal cases brought against it on work related ill-health and breaches of health and safety practice
b. A poor accident or health risk record
c. Stress-related illness and absence
d. Staff who leave because of work pressure or an unacceptable working environment
e. Perceptions of bullying, unfair workload practice, etc. because of poor staff management practice...

7. Performance management – linking people management to organisational performance

...The institution avoids or effectively manages the risks associated with:
a. Poor performance and poorly performing staff not dealt with
b. Managers lacking the skills and confidence to manage their own and their staff’s performance effectively
c. Staff feeling unclear about roles and responsibilities
d. Staff feeling poorly informed and receiving insufficient guidance and support from their line managers
e. Poorly managed grievance and discipline cases...

May 23, 2007

Whistleblowing: Legal Question & Answer

Last month, the Daily Mail highlighted the case of a community centre employee who was victimised after she exposed a colleague as a convicted sex offender who had won her whistleblowing claim.

What lessons can employers learn from this case?

A The case points out the importance of having proper policies and procedures for dealing with whistleblowers. Employers need to learn how to recognise when employees gain rights under whistleblowing legislation against detriment or dismissal. In whistleblowing situations, careful management will be required, which should include thorough investigation of the issues raised by the whistleblower.

Are employers required to introduce whistleblowing policies?

A The UK's whistleblowing law is derived from the Public Interest Disclosure Act. This does not expressly oblige employers to introduce whistleblowing policies, but their introduction is best practice.

Some employers that operate in regulated sectors are under separate obligations regarding whistleblowing. London Stock Exchange-listed companies are subject to the requirements of the Combined Code on Corporate Governance, which requires arrangements to be in place for staff to raise concerns in confidence about financial reporting or other matters.

US-listed companies are subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and this also requires procedures for the raising of accounting concerns to be in place.

Why would we introduce a whistleblowing policy if we are not legally required to do so?

A There are all sorts of good practical reasons for employers to maintain whistleblowing policies. For example, by fostering a culture of openness and transparency, employers are more likely to root out any malpractice or wrongdoing and so protect themselves against reputational and financial loss.

Effective policies and procedures are also the best protection against whistleblowing claims, since they will emphasise that genuinely held concerns will be thoroughly investigated, and that those who speak up will be protected against victimisation or dismissal as a result.

Aside from the legal costs and wasted management time involved, whistleblowing claims can result in high awards of compensation. There is no limit on the compensation that employment tribunals can award. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the tribunal may be able to make an injury to feelings award, as well as financial compensation.

The majority of claims settle on confidential terms, but there have been a series of high-profile cases involving six-figure compensation. The Prison Service was ordered to pay almost £500,000 to an employee who alleged that there had been serious wrongdoing in Wakefield Prison (Mrs C P Lingard v HM Prison Service).

Q What does the legislation cover?

A Danger to the health and safety of any individual is one of the six categories of malpractice that the legislation specifically mentions. The others are criminal offences, breach of any legal obligation that has been held to include (in Parkins v Sodexho) a breach of the whistleblower's own contract of employment, miscarriages of justice, damage to the environment, and the deliberate concealing of information about any of these. Disclosures about such matters may qualify for protection.

Q Who do whistleblowing rights apply to?

A Whistleblowing rights apply more widely than many other employment rights. Workers, and not only employees, are covered by the law, while certain groups - including agency workers - are specifically protected.

Q So what should we do if a worker is victimised for raising a genuine concern?

A Those involved should be warned that the victimisation of a genuine whistleblower is potentially a serious disciplinary offence, not least because it could expose the organisation to a claim by the whistleblower. The whistleblower should be offered extra support.

Q What if unfounded allegations are made maliciously?

A The raising of untrue allegations maliciously is also a serious disciplinary offence, and this should be explained in a whistleblowing policy and/or your disciplinary procedure. If you need to discipline a worker in such circumstances, be particularly careful to check that you have a good record of a thorough investigation showing that the employee made up their allegations for improper motives. Ensure that you follow the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedure, as well as your own internal procedures.

By Andreas White, employment solicitor -

May 22, 2007

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

As bullying would appear to be rife in academia (Boynton 2005) it is to be hoped that UCU [University and College Union, UK] are selecting their first case to support...

...the first task for UCU is to engage with and actually read the documentation that members send them.

...another helpful strategy would be to ensure that members do not have to wait over six months for advice from UCU's solicitors
. [Or receive the wrong legal advice.]

...another strategy would be for Sally Hunt to respond to letters from members who have lengthy and complex cases involving workplace bullying.

...the level of support I have received from UCU has been very low key... [You and some other union members - there are even allegations of collusion.] well OK we'll meet with you if we really have to... if you must keep emailing us... but don't expect us to give you much advice... because well really we're not that interested... too much like hard work really...

... I'm sure it can't be as bad as you're making out...

...gosh haven't they sorted anything out yet... haven't they had the meeting with you yet... hasn't HR responded to your emails...

...really... well yeah we'll support you... like yawn...

Aphra Behn

Harassment in the Workplace - Legislation, UK

Legislation was introduced in 1997 following a significant number of very high profile cases involving stalkers. The legislation called the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 was intended to simplify the process of prosecuting those involved in the practice of stalking.

It was never envisaged that the legislation would have any impact within the workplace, it was designed to protect victims from nuisance individuals. However, the ambit of the legislation has been widened significantly by a decision of the House of Lords in August 2006.

The facts of the case,
Majrowski –v- Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Trust, were that Mr Majrowski contended successfully that he had been bullied and harassed by his manager whilst working for the health trust in London.

Mr Majrowski was unable to claim unfair dismissal because the bullying had not resulted in the termination of his employment. He was unable to establish that the bullying in any way amounted to discrimination on the basis of his sex, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation and was consequently unable to bring a claim for discrimination. Mr Majrowski was further unable to show that he had suffered any kind of physical or psychiatric injury which would have been necessary to support a personal injury claim, he could only establish that he had suffered anxiety and distress. However, despite the apparent weakness of Mr Majrowski’s claim the House of Lords determined that he was entitled to compensation under the 1977 Act for the anxiety and distress he had suffered due to the bullying he had experienced at work.

What is equally concerning is that an employee can bring a claim under this Act, unlike claims for discrimination, for up to six years after the harassment was supposed to have occurred. Mr Majrowski brought his claim more than four years after the harassment he had experienced had ended. To make matters worse the claim is brought in the County Court and as such the employer may be responsible for the employee’s legal costs.

Moreover, the claim can be brought regardless as to the efforts, which may have been taken by the employer to ensure that the workplace was free from harassment. An employer may actively seek to ensure that the workplace is a professional environment in which people behave properly towards one another. However, one maverick employee could result in the employer, through no fault of its own, being exposed to the risk of a claim.

It appears that a one off incident by one employee is unlikely to support a claim, but two or more incidents or one incident involving more than one employee will be sufficient. The incident does not have to take place within work, but must occur within the course of employment which would cover work parties and nights out.

It is too early to tell how actively this legislation may be used by harassed employees. However, it is clear from this case and the ever expanding coverage of discrimination law, in particular to cover age as from 1 October, that all employers have to ensure that they have the necessary training and policies in place to try and ensure that harassment and bullying simply does not occur within the workplace

By Joe Thornhill, November 29, 2006

How performance appraisals send you GAGA

Many performance appraisal systems are helping to produce dysfunctional organisations, according to a workplace ethics expert. Michele "Micki" Kacmar, a management professor at the University of Alabama, says performance appraisals that just put ticks in boxes result in bad workplaces, bullying and high turnover.

She says most workers are motivated more by respect than money. The trouble is, most performance management systems fail to pick this up.

"You don't quit your job, you quit your supervisor," Professor Kacmar says. "But they don't say that. Instead, they say there was no flexibility, the hours were bad and the commute was too long. What they're really saying, though, is, my boss doesn't respect me, I'm not getting the treatment I deserve.

"People will take a lot of hardship if they believe people respect them. The money is great, but if you go to work every day and hate what you do and hate what's going on around you, the pay cheque will go to the doctor to fix the physical symptoms that the stress in the organisation is causing you."

Professor Kacmar, whose work focuses extensively on the "dark side" of organisations, says performance appraisals need to be conducted more often, at least quarterly, if they are to pick up black spots in an organisation. Part of the problem, she says, is that all organisations are political.

The problem is not with the performance appraisal systems, but the way these are thought through and implemented. An abusive supervisor, for example, would be allowed to continue because no one would speak up and the bullying behaviour would not be deemed relevant by the supervisor's superiors.

In organisations, you will find fiefdoms where the people you hire and fire will do your bidding. It creates an environment that allows you to be king," she says. "In order for this supervisor to be fired, whoever does their performance appraisal would have to document their behaviour. But the problem is, the person in charge of that person doesn't see the bad behaviour because it's focused outwards, and not upwards."

In her work consulting with companies and government agencies, Professor Kacmar has developed a scale for assessing organisational dysfunction. Her scale has three indicators: behaviour, policies and systems, and the level to which people in the organisation turn a blind eye (a process that she labels Going Along to Get Ahead, or GAGA).

Professor Kacmar says there are very few organisations that would score well on all three indicators. The ones that do score well have strong ethical cultures, motivated workforces and performance management systems that focus on people's success stories, not their shortcomings


Academic Unions are hopeless...

This is what the University and College Union (UCU) will do to defend you at a cost of over £130 per year to join:

If you are convinced that you are being unjustly accused, and/or that the complaint is malicious, you should:
  • Contact a branch/local association (LA) officer. It may be that an informal discussion between you, the person alleging ill-treatment, and a third party will solve the problem. [Imagine senior managers who manufactured evidence calling an independent external party to investigate...]

  • If this does not occur, and it is clear that formal proceedings will ensue, ask for UCU representation. A branch/LA officer or official may agree to represent you. [You can ask for it, but not everyone gets it. And what of the cases where the union rep supported the bully and refused representation to the victim?]

  • You should gather evidence in your defence, including witnesses. [Does this count as UCU help?]

  • If the outcome of a formal hearing is to find you guilty of bullying or harassment, UCU may continue to represent you through any internal procedures for appeal. However, you should be aware that UCU may not support you further (unless the representatives are convinced that a miscarriage of justice has occurred) beyond advising you of your legal rights. [Simply impressive.]
There is not a single case of workplace bullying where the UCU (AUT + NATFHE) went all the way to Employment Tribunal or County Court to defend a member. Not one.

Let us not forget what the National Union of Teachers did to Tim Field.

May 21, 2007

What’s the major challenge facing your organisation in tackling bullying?

...The role of senior management in leading this change process can’t be over-emphasised. Where senior managers only give lip service to the idea of creating a culture of respect and don’t take the necessary steps to change their own inappropriate behaviours, it won’t happen. Employees quickly become cynical when faced with statements that urge them to behave in ways they don’t see reflected in their managers’ behaviour on a day-to-day basis.

Leadership competencies

A number of leadership competencies are important in building a climate of change. These leadership competencies include:

• relating to people
• personal integrity
• visibility
• commitment to excellence
• willingness to challenge the status quo.

Leaders need to be seen to be championing a culture of respect by having an ongoing conversation with employees about the organisation’s values and by providing formal and informal recognition for people’s achievements. Senior managers also need to develop and communicate the importance of engaging in teamworking, mutual respect and dignity and valuing the individual at work

From: Bullying at work: beyond policies to a culture of respect, CIPD

DIT settles bullying case among senior staff, all allegations withdrawn - Ireland

The Irish Times, 21 May 2007

A long-running bullying case between two senior members of staff at Dublin Institute of Technology's business faculty has been resolved. This has led to the withdrawal of all allegations made against the director of the business faculty, Paul O'Sullivan, by his junior colleague, Dr James Urquhart.

Under the terms of an agreement with the college, Dr Urquhart is believed to have received a severance package worth more than €250,000. In return he has agreed to leave his post as head of DIT's graduate business school. However, it is understood that while he has vacated his post with immediate effect, he remains on the college payroll.

The case, which first commenced in January 2004, revolved around allegations of bullying and harassment levelled by Dr Urquhart against Mr O'Sullivan and which have now been withdrawn fully. An independent investigation by a rights commissioner examined 31 complaints and upheld six of the allegations in December 2005, one of which was subsequently overturned by DIT. The majority of the other complaints were not upheld by this investigation, which included interviews with a range of witnesses and DIT president Prof Brian Norton. The investigation found that Dr Urquhart had sustained a case of bullying against Mr O'Sullivan.

The findings of this report have now been set aside and all allegations withdrawn by Dr Urquhart. Mr O'Sullivan is understood to have sought to clear his name through an appeal of the findings of the report, and is believed to have been confident that this would transpire during any appeals process.

However, Dr Urquhart through his union, the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), was also unhappy with DIT's interpretation of the report's findings and launched an appeal. The matter came to a head last month when the former chairman of the Labour Court, Finbarr Flood, who was appointed to handle the appeals process, succeeded in securing an agreement. Mr O'Sullivan incurred significant legal costs as a result of the long-running case. However, it remains unclear what percentage, if any, of the legal costs incurred by Mr O'Sullivan and the TUI have been met by DIT under the terms of the agreement.

The amount to be paid to Dr Urquhart is thought to include the equivalent of 18 months' salary, plus additional pension benefits and other monies. The agreement includes a commitment not to pursue any further disciplinary or other action in relation to the matter. It also includes a clause containing a commitment that no officer of DIT would be pursued legally or any further allegations about the matter made against them. Mr O'Sullivan and Dr Urquhart have agreed to a confidentiality clause and refused to comment. When contacted by The Irish Times a spokeswoman for DIT refused to comment

May 19, 2007

Not only in America...

The story below repeats itself in many different versions and combinations in this country too (and perhaps many others). There are many (ex) academics who have suffered and continue to do so in a very similar manner to the story described below. Sadly, these things do no happen only in America...
After a very successful career at a major U.S. private university, I accepted some time ago an offer from another major private university to become chair of a department that had been in trouble for years, with the mandate to bring its house in order and improve its stature both within and outside the university. With the help of a supportive dean, I was successful beyond anyone’s expectations, bringing the department to national attention and recruiting a sizable number of good graduate students in competition with the some of the best schools in my discipline. There was a widespread perception that I was one of the best department chairs in the university —one administrator described what I had done for the department and the university as a “miracle.” It wasn’t easy, since faculty in my department were often at odds with one another, and one female faculty member was antagonistic to me from the outset, trying to undermine my role behind my back by spreading false stories among the faculty. She had limited success, since, apart from one important supporter, she alienated most of the other members of the department with insults and false accusations.

Some of those who have described their mobbing experiences have characterized themselves as “outspoken,” a trait which is supposed to be protected by academic freedom, but which can unfortunately lead to the active hostility of colleagues. I was just the opposite, supporting and encouraging all faculty and staff, including my antagonist and those who were less competent or productive among the faculty, in both their professional lives and their inevitable personal difficulties. My administrative credo was based on integrity, fairness, openness, and positive support for everyone.

At one point, however, I was forced to remove one of the less competent faculty from a minor administrative role she had abused for years, not only for poor administration and repeatedly upsetting other faculty and students, but because I couldn’t believe anything she said to me. At approximately the same time, I also had to let go a part-time adjunct who, in four years, had proved herself manifestly incompetent in a vital area of the department’s activities. The latter individual was a close friend of the former, and both of them had friends in the department.

In a matter of months, this group had organized its first mobbing effort against me, and joining forces with the original antagonist and her supporter, voted that my appointment as chair not be renewed. The dean was taken aback, interviewed most of the faculty individually, and declared himself “sickened,” by their conduct. Nevertheless, he believed I had lost too much support to continue as chair, insisted on my resignation, and admitted in the process that the same group of faculty, if they got their way in this matter, would probably cause further trouble in the future. I am reminded of a story circulated at my previous university about its president admonishing a faculty member about to take a dean’s position at another institution, “Never fire anybody. No matter how bad he or she may be, everyone has friends, and those friends will be after your blood.”

That president’s attitude had seemed to me an inappropriate way to run a university (there were some rather poor officers in his administration), but both his words and those of my own dean proved prophetic, for not only did I lose my chairmanship, but for the next couple of years I was subjected to a series of public slanders from the mob that had ousted me and their male supporter, to the point of where I complained in writing to one of them—my long-term antagonist. What happened afterward was a wholly unexpected shock. A few months later I received a letter from what was by that time a new, interim dean (who was being vetted as the permanent dean), saying that a group of women in my department had accused me of sexual harassment and other offenses, a committee had been appointed to oversee an investigation, and an outside attorney had been hired to do the investigating and report to the committee and the dean. The process was very secretive, in violation of every aspect and safeguard of the university’s own policy (which had never been published and was kept hidden from me and my attorney) as well as in violation of every safeguard for handling such matters published and recommended by the U.S. Department of Education. Nevertheless, the investigator made it clear through numerous comments to me and to several other witnesses, that she not only found no fault with me, but also found my accusers so outrageous that at one point she blurted out, “How can you work with such people?” She also declared that she planned to recommend that the university hire a psychiatrist to assist the department. Her judgment concurred in detail with the more general assessment of the university’s highest personnel officer (also a woman), who declared the ringleaders “crazy and hysterical.”

The report of the investigator was not what the dean wanted, since he couldn’t afford a group of women complaining that he was insensitive to their grievances while he was still under consideration as the permanent dean. He has therefore kept the report under wraps ever since and refused under any circumstances to release it. Meanwhile, from friendly departmental witnesses I learned that the mobbers had been meeting secretly for several months, intimidating and threatening students and staff, and acting in general like a typical lynch mob obsessed with groupthink. I also learned that the investigator had uncovered numerous instances of outright fabrication on the part of the mobbers, in addition to false statements, radical distortion, and pettiness in all their other allegations. Nevertheless, the two faculty committees eventually involved in the investigation were easily misled by the dean and the university’s legal office, documents were withheld from them by university officials, they did not interview witnesses themselves, nor was I given adequate opportunity to respond to either committee. At the end of the investigation, the dean tried to get me to resign my tenure in return for a couple of years’ salary and the threat of dire consequences if I didn’t. I refused, since senior positions in my field are scarce as hen’s teeth and my discipline isn’t marketable outside the academy.

Without my ever seeing the written complaint the mobbers had submitted and without a hearing, the dean then banned me from my department, my salary and benefits were cut, and I was suspended from teaching for a period of time. I do not fault the faculty committees for ill-will, or even overweening arrogance, but for naiveté in being unprepared to believe that there wasn’t anything to the hundreds of accusations the mobbers had thrown at me (their meetings had generated some truly wild stories and hysteria), and for incompetence in running a complete and fair investigation. Sometimes where there is smoke there is no fire, but only purveyors of smoke.

In reaction to what had been done to me, I attempted, at great expense, to sue the university, but without success—my suit was dismissed on a technicality. Private universities can get away with vastly more misconduct than the courts allow public universities. However, I did obtain detailed information about the dishonesty that attended this matter from beginning to end, not only on the part of the complainants, but on the part of the dean and the university’s legal office. The information, to me, was worth the price of the lawsuit. The subsequent decade has been difficult, in part because of the detailed information about injustice that I uncovered and have been unable to use to any effect. Even though I have interviewed elsewhere as a finalist for several administrative positions, the necessary disclosure of my difficulties with my present university terminated each of those possibilities. Openings for senior professors in my field have been rare, and although I’ve been a finalist for both positions I’ve applied for, in each case I lost out to younger candidates. In recent years, in response to my formal complaint about the dean to the Board of Trustees, my annual salary increases have been reduced to a pittance in relation to everyone else’s. So much for academic freeedom.

My professional life at my university is now filled with ironies. My teaching has been restricted to an introductory course for non majors that others in my field don’t want to teach, nor am I allowed to do any interdisciplinary teaching or teaching in other departments, even though in the past I had taught highly successful interdisciplinary courses and courses in two departments other than my own. Fortunately, the students who register for my present course are mostly quite good, and I receive some of the best student evaluations in the university despite the deadening effect of teaching the same thing year in and year out. But I have no opportunity to work with majors in my field, and I am deprived of being part of the life of the university, which I always enjoyed. On the other hand, since I am not included in or asked to do anything other than teach my course, I have far more time for my own research and publications than ever before.

Outside the university I have an international reputation for my scholarship, integrity and personality, and I am treated with great friendship and respect by colleagues elsewhere. I am frequently invited to international conferences and asked to speak and give workshops on endowed series at other institutions. I’ve served on doctoral committees at other universities and on review committees for departments in my field, including the Ivy league. I’m constantly asked by younger colleagues for fellowship recommendations, and by department chairs for tenure and promotion evaluations, including some from the most prestigious departments and universities in the country. I am regularly asked to do peer reviews for the most important journals in my field.

No one either inside or outside the university who knows me believes any of the allegations of the mobbers, and the effect of my being disciplined and rusticated has been to bring disapprobation from colleagues all across the country on my university, my former department and the colleagues who mobbed me. In the past decade the department has been mostly ruled by the mobbers and their supporters, and each in a series of chairs has ruined a specific aspect of the department. The once thriving graduate programs have either disappeared or are hanging on by a thread; no longer are there applicants from important undergraduate departments in our field. Recruiting of new faculty has also been problematic because of the widespread negative reputation of the department. These chairs have further fouled their own nest by retaliation against faculty and staff who supported me or who even insisted on remaining neutral. Firings of faculty and staff over the past decade have been legion, including non-tenured faculty who were outstanding in their subject areas. Even the university administration is fed up with a department that is the source of constant problems. Nevertheless, the dean not only overlooks this kind of behavior, the university has refused to investigate numerous thoroughly documented grievances of serious retaliation, despite piously advertising each year that it does not permit retaliation of any sort. Many current faculty stay away from the department, only showing up for their classes and avoiding as much contact with its ruling clique as possible.

All this has happened in the decade in which I have been gone from the department and had no influence over it whatsoever, so I clearly was not the problem. Almost all faculty and all of the staff are afraid of the current chair, who was the leader of the mobbers (this appointment alone illustrates the irresponsibility and cynicism of the dean). The department is now in almost as bad shape as it was before I arrived. Recently the university has instituted a code of conduct, emphasizing professional integrity, which all faculty are required to sign, but whose standards none of the department chairs who followed me, nor the dean himself, who is widely criticized throughout the university for dishonesty, could ever meet. But of course, they will never be held to account.

How have I coped with all this over the past decade? It hasn’t been easy. On the one hand I have very few duties and still receive a full-time salary and benefits, even if somewhat reduced, and can continue to do so as long as I wish. This is comforting financial security. As an academic cousin of mine put it, “You’re in academic Heaven—you just had to go through academic Hell to get there.” When I talk to colleagues at other universities about my situation, they sometimes jokingly ask, “How can I get such a deal?” But I hardly view it as heavenly. In my innermost being I’m a teacher—at my previous university I won all the major teaching awards—and it’s very frustrating not to be able to expand my teaching into new and interesting areas or to be able to engage majors and graduate students in my field. It’s difficult not to be able to share in the life of the institution through committees and interactions with colleagues—something which I always found interesting and rewarding, even if sometimes overly time consuming. I had for decades been an active and forceful supporter of women’s role and rights in the academy, but I now find myself uncomfortably suspicious of women in a way I never was. I now wonder what someone to whom I’ve been pleasant, supportive, and helpful might be plotting behind my back.

Perhaps most difficult of all, however, has been the shattering of my belief in the societal role of universities as committed to truth and as bastions of justice and ethical conduct
. I’ve seen plenty of bad behavior by both individual faculty and administrators over my long career at four different private institutions, but I had never before encountered or even heard of a systematic, sustained Orwellian environment, not only within a department, but at the central core of a university. The very foundation of why I became an academic in the first place has been dislodged, and I find myself in that otherworld of big brother who officially declares that black is white and who defines reality, not according to facts and objective judgment, but according to what is expedient for the pursuit of authoritarian power and control. I feel like an alien in my own country, a refugee with no place to flee. I’m sure that most other “mobbees” are in far worse circumstances, though probably are not any more angry, than I

Name and institution withheld at writer’s request for fear of further retaliation.