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State lawmakers consider law against workplace bullies

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- According to a survey, 37 percent of people claim they've been bullied at work.

The statistic is the result of research by Zogby International, which surveyed more than 7700 adults.

The tactics bullies used were more subtle than school yard bullies, but their effects proved to be devastating.

Dr. Ruth Namie said a former boss used to berate her every day.

"I was terrified, and would run from her and hide from her," she said.

Dr. Gary Namie started studying bullies at work after his wife's health suffered and became the director of the Workplace Bullying Institute.

"Why would someone suffer war wounds in the work place unless the work place is a war zone?" he said.

New research by the Workplace Bullying Institute showed that almost three quarters of reported bullies are the target's boss. The study also found that women are bulled more often that men, especially by other women.

"Women prefer to target women and men are evenly split on who they pummel, but women are especially cruel to women," Dr. Gary said.

The targets often suffered anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress.

"I threw up almost every night before I went to work," Ruth said.

With research indicating some 54 million Americans are bullied at work, state lawmakers are considering a healthy workplace bill.

Work bullies cost employers millions in stress-related illnesses, absences and lost productivity. And Ruth says bullying isn't the same as tough management, but rather dumping misery on someone else.

"Verbal abuse, or conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating -- it is the undermining of somebody's work, it is sabotage.," Dr. Gary said.

Without a law protecting victims, they often wind up in court or quit.

"If the employer does nothing, (you) have to leave because it's never going to be healthy there," said Dr. Gary.

And if you don't quit, Dr. Gary said, there's a strong chance the bully will force you out.

The Bullying Institute found that the targets of workplace bullies have a few things in common. They're often independent, highly-skilled, well-liked and ethical employees.

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