From the playground to the workplace, not everyone gets along.
A growing number of states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have proposed workplace bullying legislation. Problematically, this legislation could expose employers to frivolous lawsuits because any disgruntled employee would have the opportunity to sue his or her employer for harassment. Unlike workplace bullying legislation, current anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws require that harassment be tied to a protected category, such as race, sex, or disability. Title VII and the state counterparts were designed to give equal opportunities to classes of individuals who historically did not have these opportunities. Workplace bullying laws, on the other hand, are designed to prevent an abusive work environment generally. Problematically, the reach of this legislation could be expansive and proposed legislation provides little guidance as to what exactly constitutes an abusive workplace.
It may only be a matter of time before employers will be faced with obligations under workplace anti-bullying laws. In the meantime, employers may want to consider instituting anti-bullying policies that foster a culture of mutual respect.
If you have any questions regarding harassment in the workplace, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.