Quick Facts About the Healthy Workplace Bill

What the HWB Does for Employers

  • Precisely defines an "abusive work environment" -- it is a high standard for misconduct
  • Requires proof of health harm by licensed health or mental health professionals
  • Protects conscientious employers from vicarious liability risk when internal correction and prevention mechanisms are in effect
  • Gives employers the reason to terminate or sanction offenders
  • Requires plaintiffs to use private attorneys
  • Plugs the gaps in current state and federal civil rights protections

What the HWB Does for Workers

  • Provides an avenue for legal redress for health harming cruelty at work
  • Allows you to sue the bully as an individual
  • Holds the employer accountable
  • Seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits
  • Compels employers to prevent and correct future instances

What the HWB Does Not Do

  • Involve state agencies to enforce any provisions of the law
  • Incur costs for adopting states
  • Require plaintiffs to be members of protected status groups (it is "status-blind")
  • Use the term "workplace bullying"

Sponsor The Bill

Are you a lawmaker interested in sponsoring the bill? Read more about sponsoring here.

Over 300 individuals of both parties have sponsored some version of the Healthy Workplace Bill. Bullying is a non-partisian issue.

Who Needs a Law?

Why Not Simply Allow Voluntary Employer Efforts to Stop Bullying?

Groups lobbying on behalf of U.S. employers (none is bigger than the Chamber of Commerce) can no longer claim that bullying does not exist. The 2007 and 2010 WBI-Zogby survey results put that issue to rest. However, they do claim that the problem is best dealt with on a voluntary basis. These groups believe we should let employers handle their own internal affairs, because they know what is best. Sadly, when there is no external pressure to do the right thing for workers, most employers won't.

According to the WBI 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey results, employers deny that bullying happens, or discount its destructive power if admitted to, or rationalize the "positive benefits of bullying." In the words of one attorney, "the United States not only has more laws than it can handle ... bullying has its benefits ... this country was built by mean, aggressive, sons of bitches ... some people may need a little appropriate bullying in order to do a good job ... those who claim to be bullied are really just wimps who can't handle a little constructive criticism." [San Francisco Business Times, July 19, 1999].

Certainly, they believe they are acting in the best interest of the employer, but employees suffer. To most employers, bullies are merely exercising their employer-granted managerial prerogative to handle people without regard to the consequences of that often brutal treatment. Some bullies bully because executives tell them to. Most bully because it is part of the corporate culture. They will not stop until their executive or owner makes them stop.

You would think employers would stop the bullying because of associated costs. But personal loyalty to bullies by executive sponsors trumps bottom-line impact and rationality. They value the friendship (however artificial it is when engineered by the ingratiating bully) more than financial sanity, concern for turnover, or the health of several employees.

Employers Have Had Years to Comply

Employers know how to comply with laws. Sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims lead to investigations and pressure to stop only because state and federal laws compel employers to pay attention to such complaints. Employers did not voluntarily decide to curb harassment for the sake of workers' health and dignity. Laws made them do it. The record is clear. Capitalist enterprises rarely do anything good for workers until a law forbids mistreatment or neglect.

When left to decide how to treat workers without the threat of lawsuits to keep them honest, employers choose to rationalize bullying as useful and sometimes necessary.

Though we provide progressive employers with the tools to stop bullying, this represents only a tiny minority of employers. Psychologically injured employees cannot wait for a voluntary employer anti-bullying movement.