There are currently no laws against workplace bullying in any state within the U.S., although 25 states have had such laws introduced within the last number of years (all voted down), and it is only a matter of time before such laws likely become enacted.
Justice Scalia commented in one Supreme Court case (Oncale) that the anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII did not enact a “civility code” in the workplace. If anti-bullying legislation is enacted this would be a first step to such a “civility code.” Is this a good idea? So far, half the states did not think so – but that was then and this is now.
Nobody likes or condones bullying. Employers have much to be concerned about when it comes to workplace bullying: all studies point to decreased morale, decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism and an overall decrease in workplace productivity, to say nothing about the personal toll bullying takes on the bullied. But what will be the effect of anti-bullying laws? How will they be written so as not to be overbroad and subsume normal workplace interaction? And how will they affect the employer-employee relationship?
It is interesting to note that the new NFL/Martin report discussed by Ellen Cobb in our recent post lists a number of authoritative articles on bullying which the investigators considered – and not one was a legal article. Nor did we see a single legal case cited – a rarity for lawyers in any situation.
But the point is that there is no legal precedent in the U.S. so that the only authorities considered are social scientists and workplace psychologists.