Laws versus no laws. Readers keep commenting on our recent blog posts about the necessity and/or desireability of legally regulating workplace bullying, something no state has yet done. Here is a small sample.
For No New Laws
Suzanne Benoit, an HR specialist from the Portland, Maine area, is a little ambivalent:
“Hey Richard. Good question. I don’t think laws are necessary to get employees to behave respectfully towards each other. I make a living helping organizations that are clear about the connection between healthy workplace culture and profit sustainability. I have resisted the idea that a statute is the right big picture strategy.
On the other hand, some employers just won’t attend to this matter without some type of statutory threat. It’s sad but true.
Some of the ways in which bullies target employees day in and day out, get under my skin. I typically work for employers but if the occasional employee reaches their limit and wants to find a way to take justified action against their employer, they’ll have to be a member of a protected class in the US. Otherwise, no statutory offense.
I’ll keep plugging away, one company at a time. I look forward to comments. This is a bit of a hot button issue.”
Britt Weimer, a litigator from the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, had this to say:
“It’s an important issue, but clearly it’s one that needs to be handled by the private sector. The last thing we need is for legislatures to create a vague cause of action untethered to any protected status. Even the most saintly boss will get angry at times, when pressures are high. And that anger can be warranted with under-performing employees.
If such legislation were to pass, it would make bullying claims as routine as unemployment claims. The beneficiaries would be attorneys and aggressive employees. The losers would be everyone else — all the people who depend upon job creation and economic growth. For prudent employers would become even more reluctant to take on the enhanced risk of hiring new employees …”
For New Laws
David Wilkinson, a Queensland, Australia lawyer:
“It is both regrettable and unfortunate but laws are essential. This is borne out by most of the rules of society and the percentage of those who still knowingly breach those rules. . Simply look at the statistics on criminal sanctions in areas away from the workplace for validation of this.
I am not advocating that the introduction of laws works to eradicate any issue. The same statistics that I have suggested above will also demonstrate this. What laws do are control that percentage of the population that consciously choose not to do something that they would perhaps not be prevented from doing on moral grounds but are deterred from doing on grounds of the potential sanctions. They also serve as a system of penalties for those who breach them.
By way of analogy, there are speed limits on the roads. Of the drivers using the roads many will stick to the limits out of a desire for safety for themselves and for others, following a moral code. Equally many will disregard the speed limits regardless of law, public opinion or otherwise. In between are those whose greatest concern is the consequence of getting caught and the punishment that follows. It is the latter category in the employment context that the laws are there to deter.”