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Workplace Bullying Legislation (aka “Employment Lawyer Full-Employment Act”)

Published by on February 7, 2008

The ABA Journal has an article on legislation pending in 13 states that would create a cause of action for workplace bullying.  Such legislation, while well-intended, would open the floodgates to lawsuits over every perceived slight in the workplace. For example, the proposed New Jersey “Healthy Work­place Act” would define abusive conduct as including “repeated infliction […]

The ABA Journal has an article on legislation pending in 13 states that would create a cause of action for workplace bullying.  Such legislation, while well-intended, would open the floodgates to lawsuits over every perceived slight in the workplace.

For example, the proposed New Jersey “Healthy Work­place Act” would define abusive conduct as including “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.”  The articles notes that similar bills have also been introduced in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and Washington but none have been enacted.

One has to wonder whether allowing litigation for “gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance” will encourage lawsuits over legitimate criticism of a subordinate’s work performance.  How many cases will it take to flesh-out the definition of “gratuitous sabotage”?  Would the law of unintended consequences apply to this type of legislation?  Only time will tell.

One lawyer is quoted in the article with respect to such legislation , “You’re talking about a lifetime annuity of work for employment lawyers.”

(Hat tip to Overlawyered.)

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