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New York Legislation to watch– SB 2261: Stopping Workplace Bullies


Start spreading the news: New York has re-introduced legislation intended to stop the office bully, making abusive conduct illegal in the workplace. In 2010, they got close to passing it, with the Senate signing off but not the governor. New York joins these states in placing the important legislation on its 2019 calendar: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (PA is a maybe, but I’ll put them in the category of having the legislation on the 2019 calendar).


Stop the bully legislation addresses a gap that is the size of . . . the United States (Texas, I realize your claim to the idiom, but the gap is bigger than you). To date, there is no law – state or federal – affording legal redress to those who cannot establish that abusive behavior was motivated by race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or age.


The Healthy Workplace Bill (as introduced in over 30 legislatures in some form or another since 2003 but never passed) recognizes that abusive behavior in the workplace is a problem for both employees and employers.


The employee side of the office bully problem as aptly describe in New York’s proposed legislation: at least one-third of all employees directly experience health endangering workplace bullying, abuse and harassment during their working lives. Such form of mistreatment is four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone. Workplace bullying, mobbing and harassment can inflict serious harm upon targeted employees, including feelings of shame and humiliation, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, impaired immune systems, hypertension, increased risk of cardiovascular disease , and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.


The employer side of the office bully problem: abusive work environments can have serious consequences for employers, including reduced employee productivity and morale, higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and significant increases in medical and workers’ compensation claims (New York SB 2261, paragraph 760).


The core truth: bad health threatening and employer troubling behavior happens rampantly to those who live outside legally protected classes of minorities. Yet, those outside the protected minority classes have no voice. Employment attorneys, human resource professionals, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and state agencies, in hearing their countless stories of abusive behavior – bullying – turn them away, ignoring their situations . . . until they grow worse and worse, getting legal attention when familiarly labeled as sexual harassment or suicide attempt.


New York came the closest of any state to passing the legislation in 2010 when the measure passed in the state senate but was not signed by the governor. 2019 may be the year New York passes the Healthy Workplace Bill and stops the office bully. And, with a nod to Frank Sinatra, if the bill can make it there, it can make it anywhere . . . it's up to you, New York.