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:
- New Jersey
- New York
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.