67 Utah state employees complained of workplace abuse since July 2015 — seven bosses or co-workers were disciplined

System allows complainants to go outside usual chain of command.<br>

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, March 13, 2014.

A few dozen state employees have been taking advantage of a law passed two years ago that is designed to make it easier to report abusive conduct by bosses or co-workers by going outside the normal chain of command.

Lawmakers were told Tuesday that 67 state workers made such complaints between July 2015 and December 2017.

“Forty-three of those complaints met the statutory criteria and were investigated,” said Rebecca Parr, the new labor relations director for the Department of Human Resource Management.

Of those 43, seven people were found to have violated rules and received different levels of punishment.

“Actions taken included a verbal warning, a written reprimand, two suspensions without pay, two demotions and a dismissal,” Parr said.

The House Economic Development and Workforce Service Committee asked for the report to help determine if HB216 passed in 2015 is working and being used.

“Abusive conduct” under that state law is different than employment discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin that is banned by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The state law bans conduct that “is intended to cause intimidation, humiliation or unwarranted distress,” or “exploits an employee’s known physical or psychological disability.”

“We have a process that allows employees to address abusive conduct outside the chain of command,” Parr said. “That is something new,” and data about it is being collected for the first time.

“It is showing they are having the opportunity to raise those complaints,” she said. Also, the bill requires all state employees to receive training about abusive conduct every other year, and shortly after they are first hired.