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How To Pass Laws To Stop Workplace Bullying

For over a decade the Workplace Bullying Institute and their volunteer advocacy arm, the Healthy Workplace Campaign, have been lobbying state legislators to pass their Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) as written. None have passed. Criticism of the language or limitations of the HWB has always been met by supporters with resistance and the argument that the (copyrighted) HWB was meant as a foot in the door and a way to “prod” employers to do the right thing; the proverbial carrot on a stick. What to do? Research repeatedly shows that it’s not uncommon for grassroots efforts to change leadership or shift and embrace new approaches in order to evolve with the times and ensure success. True to form, a new leaderless grassroots movement has come up that embraces a variety of legislative approaches to preventing workplace bullying. Pima County in Arizona and Hennepin in Minnesota passed laws to protect their public employees from abuse. Ridgefield, NJ declared their whole town Bully Free with NJ’s first public ordinance against workplace bullying. Finally a sleeping giant has woken up and followed suit. This year Unions successfully pushed three bills onto the Governors’ desks of Tennessee, New Hampshire and California. Two have been signed into law and only one was vetoed. So, while these new laws that are being enacted may not do all that you wish, they sure have been successful and are definitely opening the door and prodding employers. Why are they successful? Most of these new bills focus on something that the HWB doesn’t include; required policies and trainings. On September 9th Governor Jerry Brown signed law that broadens existing Sexual Harassment regulations requiring any employer with 50 or more employees to include “abusive conduct” in their training. As part of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition (NWBC), we helped support Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in her now successful effort. Shouldn’t every state have that? It’s time for all of us working to prevent abrasive workplaces to respect our differences and come together to support change. Here’s what the latest law says:

(b)  An employer shall also include prevention of abusive conduct as a
component of the training and education specified in subdivision (a).
(c)  The state shall incorporate the training required by subdivision (a)
into the 80 hours of training provided to all new supervisory employees
pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 19995.4, using existing resources.
(d)  Notwithstanding subdivisions (j) and (k) of Section 12940, a claim
that the training and education required by this section did not reach a
particular individual or individuals shall not in and of itself result in the
liability of any employer to any present or former employee or applicant in
any action alleging sexual harassment. Conversely, an employer’s
compliance with this section does not insulate the employer from liability
for sexual harassment of any current or former employee or applicant.
(e)  If an employer violates this section, the department may seek an order
requiring the employer to comply with these requirements.
(f)  The training and education required by this section is intended to
establish a minimum threshold and should not discourage or relieve any
employer from providing for longer, more frequent, or more elaborate
training and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of
unlawful discrimination in order to meet its obligations to take all reasonable
steps necessary to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination.
(g)  (1)  For purposes of this section only, “employer” means any person
regularly employing 50 or more persons or regularly receiving the services
of 50 or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract, or any
person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state,
or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities.
(2)  For purposes of this section, “abusive conduct” means conduct of an
employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable
person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s
legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction
of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets,
verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening,
intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of
a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive
conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

Healthy Workplace Bill Vetoed in New Hampshire

Reprint from New Hampshire Public Radio July 28, 2014

Governor Maggie Hassan has vetoed a bill she called “well-intentioned” aimed at protecting public employees from bullying in the workplace.

Under the so-called “Healthy Workplace Bill,” things like an “unreasonable” workload or “constant and unreasonable criticism” would have been cause for action.  Although the bill only covered public employees, Adrienne Rupp of theBusiness and Industry Association says the group lobbied Hassan for a veto.

“It kind of opens the door.  You know, the language in the bill was very vague and subjective in our opinion,” she says.  “And I think, had a bill like this passed and become law, I think the next logical step would have been to look at the private sector.”

The State Employees Association was one of the bill’s strongest supporters.

But in her statement Hassan said the bill was too broad and subjective.  She also said it would have upended the state’s system already in place to deal with harassment complaints, and that creating a new system amounted to an unfunded mandate.

Listen to the radio program here [link]

New Hampshire Legislature Passes Workplace Bullying Law

new hampshire workplace bullying legislationBack in February we highlighted union backed legislation that was pushing through New Hampshire. On June 4 it officially passed through the House and Senate.

Similar to the bill that whizzed through Tennessee, HB 0591  is limited to Public Employees and emphasizes the need to implement policies and training. We would all love to see stand alone legislation with all the protections employees deserve but this growing trend that focuses on finding ways to pass legislation has infused energy and movement into a previously stalled campaign. And, more importantly, workers are beginning to have protection from devastating psychological abuse. Union efforts in California has ensured that other states are not far behind. Hopefully legislators in New York and other states around the country will begin to adopt this winning template to protect their employees. Can private employers be far behind? (more…)

Tennessee Enacts Law to Prevent Workplace Bullying – But…

SB2226: Any person injured by any act in violation of this bill will have a civil cause of action in chancery court or circuit court…When an employer or employee is found to be in violation, the court may enjoin such employer or employee from engaging in the unlawful employment practice and may order any other relief necessary, including, but not limited to, the removal of the offending party from said work environment, medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.  NOT!

Wouldn’t that paragraph have thrilled the hearts of all of us involved in the effort to pass abusive conduct legislation to protect employees? But, that’s not the portion of SB2226 that the Tennessee State Senate approved or the Governor signed. What they did enact “requires the Tennessee advisory commission on intergovernmental relations (TACIR), in consultation with the department of human resources and interested local government organizations, to create a model policy for local governments to prevent abusive conduct in their workplaces workplace. The model policy shall:

(1) Assist employers in recognizing and responding to abusive conduct in the workplace; and
(2) Prevent retaliation against any employee who has reported abusive conduct in the workplace. (more…)

California Could Be First State To Take On Workplace Bullying

Milestone legislation requiring employers with 50+ employees add workplace bullying to already existing harassment training and education is making great headway in California. Stepping up legislation already on the books is long overdue. This bill is sponsored by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez and fueled by the efforts of Teamsters Local 2010, the Union of Clerical and Allied Service Workers of the University of California. Last month Union members testified at the State Capitol in support of the bill and received a unanimous bipartisan vote out of committee: (more…)

Did Victim of Workplace Bullying Fake Mental Injuries?

This disturbing article by Noel Towell in the Sydney Morning Herald presents the story of a man who claimed an abusive boss left him in need of electroshock therapy countered by the healthy picture of this same man on surveillance DVDs gathered by his employer: (more…)

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