NEW YORK PASSES ANTI WORKPLACE BULLYING STATUTE
On May 12, the New York State Senate passed a bill allowing workers to sue their employers for any harm suffered by “workplace bullying.” The bill defines bullying broadly and allows a worker to sue for any physical, psychological, or economic damage done to the employee because of the actions of supervisors or colleagues. This includes harm from insults, harassment, and any other action that one would reasonably consider threatening or humiliating. The bill applies to all businesses in New York, regardless of size or number of employees. The bill will next be voted on by the labor committee of the New York State Assembly. Proponents of the bill believe that if it becomes law in New York, similar laws are likely to be passed in other states. Oklahoma has already tried and failed to pass similar measures in 2004, 2007, and 2009.
The bill includes a provision insulating employers from liability if they actively take steps to prevent workplace bullying or if they immediately take steps to correct abusive behavior. It is suggested that employers begin using anti-bullying language in their employee handbooks and take other similar measures as a proactive defense to these possible lawsuits.
My Two Cents:
There are a number of online groups that are actively lobbying for this type of legislation in a number of states. One such website, www.healthyworkplacebill.org, has an interactive map that shows the level of activity for this type of bill in each state. According to the map, legislation has been introduced and failed in over 16 states. Neither Alabama, nor any of its border states have introduced any similar legislation, although the group is lobbying for an anti-bullying bill in Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.