If you take out the racial, sexual, age or other protected class aspect of workplace harassment and hostile work environment, you get, simply, bullying. There are no state or federal laws defining or regulating workplace bullying, and the civil rights laws do not cover it, since, as Justice Scalia stated in Oncale, Title VII is not “a general civility code for the American workplace.”
However, since Oncale was decided in 1998, one comentator said that it “has been greeted by a variety of dire predictions that Title VII will become a general civility code for the workplace and result in a flood of lawsuits in federal court.” Indeed, on February 21st we asked “Will Anti-Bullying Laws Lead To Justice Scalia’s Dreaded “Workplace Civility’ Code?”
Have these “dire predictions” come true?
Should anti-bullying laws be enacted?
More and more legislatures have taken up the issue — at least 25, other countries have enacted such laws (see our post about Australia), and experts and pundits are increasingly raising the issue.
On February 25th we were pleased to post a comment from Prof. David Yamada of Suffolk University Law School, and Director of the New Workplace Institute, the author of template legislation that serves as the basis of most of the workplace anti-bullying bills introduced across the country. He who wrote to us about our discussion on anti-bullying legislation. (You can see his informative Youtube video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EorTZHnukDU and his blog video at http://healthyworkplacebill.org/blog/tag/david-yamada/. You can also access some of his legal scholarship: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf…).
Professor Yamada told us that “I can attest that the need for such legislation is underscored by the terrible inadequacy of existing law, including tort claims (IIED) and other causes of action. … the template bill, a/k/a The Healthy Workplace Bill, sets a relatively high threshold for recovery, higher in fact than hostile work environment standards for sexual harassment. In other words, it’s about creating a cause of action for abuse, not incivility.”
On March 9th, we posted a number of reader comments — for and against such laws. The discussion continued with heated comments on both sides.
We decided to raise the issue again — months later — and see if readers have changed their opinions in any way. To renew the discussion, we have posted a comment from Sonagolese NLN, owner of Sonagolese Enterprises, an American Indian owned company providing federal employers with a complete range of EEO services, and former Director of EEOC at the Bureau of Indian Affairs:
“Excellent articles! Another aspect of this issue concerns the effect of such comments and behavior on the victim. In assessing the extent to which such behavior is severe and pervasive, one must also look at whether they unreasonably interfered with work performance. This will undoubtedly vary depending on each individual. Some people will effectively perform all aspects of their work on time in spite of the egregious behavior they’re exposed to, while the functionality of others can be decimated.
I believe the courts, or alternatively the agencies charged with enforcement, should provide more clarification of when the line has been crossed.”
For further reading on the various ways in which bullying is legislatively treated globally, see our friend Ellen Cobb’s excellent, updated book, Bullying, Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Stress – Emerging Workplace Health and Safety Issues is available on Amazon.com or at http://www.theisogroup.com/publications. Ellen may also be contacted at ECobb@theisogroup.com.