Senate Bill 5789 notes that approximately one in five employees experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment which can have serious effects on the employees and serious consequences for employers. The proposal would make it an unfair practice to subject an employee to an abusive work environment.
The proposal notes that unless employees who are being bullied have been subjected to abusive treatment at work for unlawful discriminatory reasons they typically have no legal solutions.
The proposal would cover employees who have been "harmed psychologically, physically, or economically, by being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments." Abusive conduct is defined as conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer's legitimate business interests.
A trier of fact should weigh the severity, nature, and frequency of the conduct. Examples include "repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person's work performance." A single act would likely not constitute abusive conduct.
An affirmative defense to an action for an abusive work environment would be the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the conduct and the aggrieved employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of appropriate preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Employers can show reasonable care "by adopting employment policies prohibiting abusive conduct and establishing effective enforcement procedures," the legislation says.
The proposal is in a Senate committee. The House has a companion bill, H.B. 1928.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 7, 2011
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