States Consider Legislation to Prevent Workplace Bullying
In the wake of the recent Miami Dolphins controversy, workplace bullying has become a hot topic. Twenty-five states (not including Georgia) have now introduced “Healthy Workplace” legislation which, if enacted, would protect employees from workplace bullying. Eleven states are actively considering such legislation.
The proposed state laws are modeled on a “Healthy Workplace Bill” (HWB) drafted by Suffolk University Law Professor David Yamada. The HWB aims to get employers to prevent bullying by implementing policies and procedures that apply to all employees. According to Professor Yamada, anti-bullying policies in the workplace actually boost productivity and, therefore, revenues.
Close to 50% of adult American workers claim to have been the victim of, or witnessed, workplace bullying. The HWB defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of an employee by another employee that takes one or more of the following forms:
• Verbal abuse;
• Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating;
• Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.Fried & Bonder will continue to monitor the progress of the HWB and keep you informed.
• Currently, there are no state laws which prohibit bullying in the workplace. However, as public awareness of this issue continues to grow, more employers, and more states, are beginning to consider the issue. The enactment of such legislation—while perhaps well-motivated—could pose serious challenges for employers, who are currently not required to intermediate most personal disputes between employees. As the United States Supreme Court has stated, federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VII are not “general civility code[s] for the American workplace.” Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 80 (1998).