As too many employees know, abusive behavior from managers and co-workers doesn’t always fit neatly into existing categories of legal protection, whether sexual harassment, discrimination, or other established parameters.
Instead, mistreatment at work can take a form more familiar to schoolchildren: bullying. And an increasing number of governments are considering legislation to fight it. Per an AP story:
More than a dozen states — including New York and Massachusetts — have considered anti-bullying laws in the past year that would allow litigants to pursue lost wages, benefits and medical expenses and compel employers to prevent an “abusive work environment.”
According to the article, activist Gary Namie, the co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, “says the economic downturn has made bullying even worse and argues that passage of the laws would give employers more incentive to crack down on bad behavior in the workplace.”
According to a “management association survey,” many firms already have at least a framework for protection against workplace abuse: “56 percent of companies have some kind of anti-bullying policy, usually contained in an employee handbook or code of conduct. Most said their response to bullying allegations depends on the circumstances but could include suspension, termination, reassignment or mandatory anger management training.”
Of course, bullying in schools has gotten much more attention of late, culminating in a widely discussed 2011 documentary (Bully). An op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor connects the bullying of kids to the less visible issue of workplace abuse:
Some bullies never grow up, they just transfer their search for dominance from school to the workplace and other venues like the Internet. As parents we have a game plan for helping our kids cope, but what are we to do when Mommy gets bullied at work and comes home carrying the weight of that stress?
In the work place, bullying is like a vampire that drains victims of morale and self-confidence, sapping away their productive energy and increasing employee turnover. Which is pretty much what it does to our kids when it happens in the schoolyard or on the bus.
The Harman Firm works for the fair treatment of all employees. If you have questions about these kind of emerging questions in employment law, ask our attorneys today: contact us.