Twin Ports businesses ramp up efforts to curb workplace bulllying

By KBJR News 1

August 4, 2014 Updated Aug 5, 2014 at 8:48 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A Duluth woman says she had no other choice than to quit her job because she was being bulled.

Right now neither Minnesota nor Wisconsin have laws addressing bullying in the workplace.

But some of the Twin Ports largest employers say they are taking their own steps to create safer working environments.

“I'm outgoing, I'm friendly, I like to talk to people,” Sue Brewer, a victim of workplace bullying said.

Brewer fully admits she's not shy, but says that got her in trouble at work.

“When you are called in and told you have to change you have to change, you have to change and when you do change it's not good enough; that to me is bullying,” Brewer said.

Brewer says she felt targeted and over time it got worse.

“My doctor said 'no, you can't go to work right now’ because I was so emotionally battered, and confused and upset, that she said you need some time off,” Brewer said.

After more than 5 years with the employer, Brewer handed in her resignation.

And she isn't alone. A recent study found nearly 30 percent of workers quit their job because they felt they were being bullied.

We spoke with several large Twin Ports employers that say they recognize the growing concerns surrounding workplace bullying and are taking steps to curb the problem.

St. Louis County rolled out a new anti-bullying policy last fall for its 1,700 employees.

“We are a major employer in the region,” Dana Kazel, St. Louis County Communications Manager said. “It's something we felt an obligation to set the standard and provide a leadership role.”

The policy defines and gives examples of bullying and offers a detailed complaint procedure.

“What we've got is powerful,” Kazel said.

The city of Duluth says it has investigated about a dozen claims of workplace bulling over the last few years.

“The city has a responsibility to look into every action that is questionable and make sure it gets fixed,” Daniel Fanning, Duluth Communications Director said.

City officials say due to changes at the state and federal level, they're in the process of reviewing their Workplace Violence and Harassment policies, last updated a decade ago.

“We want the city to be reflective of what our values are as a community,” Fanning said.

Some private employers, like St. Luke's, also offer an employee code of conduct in hopes of maintaining a respectful workplace.

“I think it's important to have a policy that identifies or employers what we think is acceptable and not acceptable,” Marla Halvorson, St. Luke’s Hospital Human Resources Director said. “I think in some ways the policy is less important than the culture.”

Sue Brewer alleges her employer did little to help her situation, despite their anti-bullying policy.

“There was a game being played and I didn't know the rules,” Brewer said.

She's now looking for a new job, where she says her personality is welcome.

Brewer says her former employer has launched an investigation into her claims.

Kevin Jacobsen