Unions Promote State Workplace Anti-Bullying Bills

To commemorate Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week, presidents of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) spoke in favor of legislation targeting workplace bullying. During the press conference sponsored by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), WBI Director Gary Namie called for unions to support the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), a measure that has been introduced in 21 states since 2003, according to the organization.

Among other things, the HWB would define and make unlawful an “abusive work environment,” and create a cause of action for “health harming cruelty at work.” Workplace bullying would be grounds for termination or other adverse employment actions. Aggrieved employees would be permitted to hold both the employer and the bully accountable, and would be entitled to seek backpay, benefits, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages, among other remedies. Under the terms of the bill, employers would be required to take preventative measures to avert bullying.

These initiatives are all pending at the state level. Notably, the WBI claims that state lawmakers in Massachusetts and New York have been relatively receptive to measures introduced in those jurisdictions. At this time, however, there is no indication that legislation will be introduced at the federal level, although the WBI claims that “negotiations are underway to hold an informational Congressional hearing on the topic to raise awareness among congressional legislators.” It is likely that unions will attempt to include anti-bullying clauses in collective bargaining agreements before such terms are passed as legislation at either the state or federal level.

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