Human Resources News & Insights

13 states consider anti-bullying laws

Thanks to several state legislatures, many HR pros may soon have a new legal obligation:

Keeping an eye on workplace jerks.

Right now, for an employee to sue over harassment, the conduct has to be related to the person’s gender, race, religion, etc.

But some states are considering “workplace bullying” bills that will essentially outlaw all workplace hostility. Those states are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

What will the laws look like? New York’s, for example, gives protection to any employee who’s been physically or psychologically harmed by being exposed to an abusive work environment.

As far as what an “abusive work environment” means, the law isn’t exactly clear. The illegal behavior is defined only as conduct that a reasonable person would find “hostile, offensive and unrelated to the employer’s legitimate business interests.”

You can see the proposed legislation here.

Of course, no employer wants employees to be abused. But these laws would greatly add to HR’s legal burden. Companies should be prepared to update harassment policies to include anti-bullying provisions — and respond to complaints from employees.

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  • Mari

    In Florida, employees have hardly any rights.
    Two senerios.
    I know someone who works in collections. She is forced to work atleast 40 hrs overtime a pay period, because if not – she will be fired. She was also told that no extensions could be given to those people in Texas and Louisianna that were under a State of Emergency” due to the hurricane that had hit. Multiple of her co-workers were fired, because they were not able to collect from these people. Is there anything in the law that would protect her or help the employees that were fired??

    Second Senerio
    I work in a place, where the employees are lied to from the day they are hired. There are no reviews-even though it it promised 90days after being hired and annually. There are no raises- even though upon hire you are told that after you 90 days, you will have an increase as well as annually-even when you ask, you are laughed at.

    Employee hand books are no longer given out, even though you have to sign paperwork saying it was received.

    The supervisor goes around bad mouthing it’s employees to other employees-even talking about terminating particular employees. This same supervisor also goes around the office discussing her sex life and sexual preferences. Employees are alot of the time called names by the supervisor in front of the other employees. Not to mention she yells at the employees. It is truely a hostile environment!! Racial comments are also made. There is a revolving door, because everyone who is a good employee and hard worker leaves, because of this person. The Administrator does not step in and nor does the Owner of the company. She is “protected” by them.
    By the way, to date, this supervisor has not written up any of the employees and had them sign anything.

    Is there anything that can be done??

  • Debbie

    It sounds like we work at the same place! It’s a terrible work environment but people are so afraid of losing their jobs in this poor economy that they feel they have no choice but to tolerate poor treatment. It’s really sad.

  • Larry

    What can be done? There are two things on the ends of your legs – FEET! Use them and walk out. You took the job – if it isn’t what you wanted – walk out. It’s your fault if you stay and continue to get abused.
    Face it, the world is not fair.

  • Doris

    It is easy to say walk – but as it has already been stated in this economy some of us have to have a job.

    There is an employee at my company who is very vocal towards other employees – for some reason his immediate supervisor and those on up the chain will not reprimand him at all – he has made very insulting comments, made drawings of female employees body parts, left death comments to an employee who is fighting cancer and nothing is done. I have brought several instances to the powers that be and nothing is done – I think they are afraid of him BUT no one should be allowed to treat other employees with the disrespect that this person does.

    I have thought of speaking to the owner but it has been made very clear if I want my job keep my mouth shut. I need my job, not many around this area and my age is a factor as well.

  • Sara

    I want to know how I may participate in developing the legislation for the State of California, enough is enough?

  • Lou

    I work at a business where the manager and her daughter tell everyone “we’re the managers and we can do what we want”! This business is owned by a corporation whose policies are strict but never enforced! They scream and cuss at people on a whim! They show up for work when they want and if they want yet still draw full paychecks! In this economy I just try to do my job and smile and go home! Some days I take my work to a quiet place in the building, but out of the office to get away from them. It is a small office! I actually welcome the days they do not show up, even if I have to do the work of 3 people! What can I do ? They are really pshyco!

  • Bruce

    It is a real shame to know about the many abuses that occur in the workplace. People complain about unions, but it is because of unfair employment practices that unions came to be. Sadly, we’ve gone backwards many years and because of the poor economic times, I do believe that people and companies think they can get away with treating their employees unfairly (hostility, discrimination etc.). People who have the attitude of life isn’t fair and just leave (like most working class people are independently wealthy) clearly have not been stepped upon or discriminated against and thus cannot relate. If someone hadn’t decided to make changes, Black people may still not have an opportunity to vote or work, women may not have an opportunity to work or vote and a host of other social ills may still exist today. It simply is not good enough to say “suck it up!”