Monday, August 23, 2010

Bullying in the Workplace

Over the last several months, school bullying has received increasing attention. From the cases of Phoebe Prince and Carl Walker-Hoover in Massachusetts, to the New Hampshire case involving older children bullying a younger child to get a tattoo, the heightened concern over school bullying has led to legislation. Several months ago, Governor Lynch signed a Bill into law that revised the People’s Safety and Violence Prevention Act, to protect children from physical, emotional and psychological violence caused by bullying and cyber-bullying.

New Hampshire, New York, and at least fourteen other states have explored expanding anti-bullying legislation from the school to the workplace. New Hampshire’s proposal was tabled without further action in February 2010, and none of the other states have passed their bills into law. The growing legislative interest in prohibiting workplace conduct that may be insulting, threatening, intimidating, or humiliating is worth tracking. Legislative materials filed in New York suggest that bullying claims are four times more prevalent than sexual harassment claims, so the passage of any workplace bullying law could very likely lead to an increase in claims. While every employer should take reasonable precautions to make sure that employees act professionally, the potential for anti-bullying laws impacting the workplace is a possible expansion in law that bears monitoring.

-By Christopher Pyles, Employment Attorney

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