Workplace Bullying: The Silent Epidemic

I had given them all the proof and still

they seem to choose to ignore it there's

something stalking the Canadian

workplace it can be offensive hurtful

and hazardous to your health

still one in six of us has felt it the

pain of being bullied at work but as

it's often psychological this particular

brand of abuse can be hard to recognize

it can also be hard to fight tonight the

CDC's UNR Emily Otis tracks the growing

fallout from Canada's silent epidemic

you would think it all got left behind

in the schoolyard

the sneers the Snickers the snide

remarks think again the bullies are all

grown up now they may be wearing a tie

carrying a briefcase may even be your

boss and making life at work a living

hell I can sleep I can eat I was

throwing up blood broken I wasn't myself


Meredith Boucher is the gaunt face of a

silent epidemic

she lost 25 pounds in six months she

says her bully tormented her at work day

in and day out how would you describe

those six months in a nutshell

hell it was hell she never saw coming

for ten years Meredith was a star

employee yet Walmart rising quickly up

the ranks she was working at this store

in Windsor in 2009 as an assistant

manager on track for yet another

promotion when she suddenly found

herself in the fight of her life I knew

that I hadn't done anything wrong I had

given them all the proof and still they

seemed to choose to ignore it and I just

wanted to prove that I hadn't done

anything wrong that was really that was

all that it was about Meredith says it

all started when this man Jason Pennock

the store manager asked her to falsify

the temperature logs in the food section

another worker had forgotten to fill

them all in the store was going to get a

bad audit Meredith refused and says she

immediately became a target and says the

abuse was cruel and bizarre he would

start off and he'd start gong-gong and

then he'd be like this is a fun show and

then he'd start dddddd Kate did it did

it did it and then he'd just go off and

he'd go crazy and this was happening

every day every day every day what was

he trying to do well to me I didn't know

if he was nuts or what but he was just

trying to humiliate me and he was doing

it in front of everyone did you document

everything your attempts to have

management deal with it yes I did

Meredith complained to senior management

she says they took a lot of notes made a

lot of sympathetic noises they were

going to do a two-week investigation

into this so if anything else happened

in this period of time I was to contact

them and and I did and then what


absolutely nothing

seems hard to believe doesn't it

especially since by law

Walmart must have a policy in place

against workplace bullying several

provinces across the country have

similar legislation but as Meredith and

many other people we spoke to found out

the hard way those laws leave it up to

the employers to do the right thing and

if that doesn't happen good luck

remember Meredith had witnesses and a

great work record but that didn't seem

to matter five months after she made her

first complaint Walmart concluded her

allegations were unsubstantiated

not only was Pinnick off the hook she

was now in trouble for making false

allegations it was the last straw I

guess he got the better of me because I

can be there any more I just couldn't be

there Meredith quit but hardly gave up

she called a lawyer

in my view that legislation doesn't have

sufficient teeth to enable it employed a

bite back at the worker who's causing

that level of discomfort or distress and

you employers oftentimes are placed in a

situation in which they have to choose

between two employees whose side are

they going to take Myron shulgin agreed

to take on Meredith case despite the

odds workplaces may be required to deal

with bullying but there's no actual law

against the act of bullying itself you

can't just go to curtain see I've been

bullied unfairly or I've been harassed

unfairly I you know make it stop you

have to go a step further and that step

is a very big step that you have to take

you have to prove that the bullying or

the harassment was you've been subjected

constitutes the intentional infliction

of emotional suffering

thanks for coming from the group session

proving the physical and mental toll of

workplace bullying is a huge challenge

and why so many people suffer in silence

at a support group for victims north of

Toronto a

of helplessness echoes in the room I was

a wreck

mentally I couldn't sleep I couldn't eat

these people must be exposed this

company must be exposed it shouldn't

have happened

it shouldn't have happened everyone here

says they've tried and tried to hold an

employer responsible for bullying and an

heir runs the group she says people can

end up desperate little by little by you

poisoned to death mentally and

physically and ultimately your soul

that's when people take their own life

years of bullying ruined Teresa Coelho

financially I'm just reminded every day

that I didn't matter basically that's

what it did to me that I was worthless

Stephan stepping says his fight

demoralized him because the most danger

for any person is to when you lose

self-esteem when you under depression

that's gonna go only one way suicide I

and I Meredith

nice to meet you we told Meredith about

the group she drove two hours to get


eager to meet people like herself hi


Meredith she was shocked by the stories

that sounded just like her own so

alienated I was never invited to any

function company Father you how many

black schools on ya area very very

excluded when he told me about this

group I thought it was amazing their

stories ripped my heart out

I just it needs to stop

bottom line how to stop a bully when the

legislation is lacks and the legal

hurdles huge an international conference

on workplace bullying the first one of

its kind in Canada is taking place in

Dartmouth Nova Scotia when somebody has

been bullied and they go through all the

procedures and use the policies in all

the forms the issue now is that person

whether or not they're going to believe

this person Valery Cade is an expert on

workplace bullying she says it comes

down to leadership when you're treating

people well and you create an

environment where people want to you

will see less incidences of bullying and

if somebody is bullying it will stand

out like a sore thumb as opposed to

being the way we do things around here

Walmart didn't hold mayor this bully

accountable but the justice system did

her case went to trial a jury accepted

her version of events and an appeals

judge found Jason Penix daily abuse was

flagrant and outrageous and that

Meredith suffered a visible and provable

illness as a result the judge also found

Walmart took no steps to bring an end to

pin X misconduct in the highest award of

its kind in Canada the jury ordered

Walmart and pinic pay 1.4 million

dollars that amount was ruled excessive

and reduced an appeal last month to

about $400,000 so when you find out that

you want your case what went through

your mind but the sense of vindication

was the best reward I was elated with

that because that's all I wanted to hear

was that that part and I was just like

in statements Walmart says it regards

its employees highly and disagreed with

the findings of the trial court in this

matter so does Jason panic but Walmart

says it will use this case as an

opportunity to reinforce respect in the

workplace without exception as for

Pennock he still works at Walmart he now

manages this store in Ancaster Ontario

Walmart says there have been no further

complaints of this kind raised with

respect to mr. Pinnock

looking back would you do it all again

yes no regrets no no regrets despite the

fact winning came at a cost her bully is

still working but five years later

dozens of resumes later Meredith is

still looking for another job I've had

you know a couple places where where

I've gone in personally and given a

resume and they've seen my name and

they've asked oh are you that Meredith

Boucher and I say yes and then they oh

and then I'm like oh okay

oh alright then I get it so so you think

people look at you as what potential

troublemaker or possibly I don't know

Meredith says despite it all she's

optimistic writing in her journal every

day helps maybe because in many ways

she's still writing her own story of a

woman who stood up to a bully and is

still paying the price Yoanna


cbc news Chatham Ontario