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Workplace bullying protections: the do'littler's and the do' not' ers

Updated: Jan 28, 2019



California, Tennessee, North Dakota and Utah address workplace bullying, but do they really?

What do Tennessee, California, Utah and North Dakota have in common? These four states have through legislation acknowledged the problem of workplace bullying. While progressive comparative to other states, they have all stopped short of banning the practice.

California, Utah, and North Dakota have -- by law -- mandated training for certain segments of the workforce. Tennessee has provided incentives to public sector employers who adopt model policies (incentive being immunities action legal action).


California in 2003 became the first state to even consider adopting a Healthy Workplace Bill: landmark legislation that, had it been adopted, would have offered legal recourse for a worker subjected to malicious, health-harming behavior (bullying) -- irrespective of race, age, or gender. The law would have also provided defense for employers who act preventively and responsively and includes provisions to discourage frivolous claims. California – while ahead of the pack – is in its 16th year of “effort” with no tangible results or meaningful outcomes to show for its purported interest and commitment.


While by now introduced into over 30 state legislatures, not a single state has fully adopted the Healthy Workplace Bill (although Massachusetts's effort is gaining traction). Predictably, neither magic nor happenstance have caused the problem of workplace bullying to go away. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying severely and negatively impacts 35% of individuals in the workforce with adverse health problems that include debilitating stress, depression, and an increased risk of heart issues. Concurrently, organizations experience decreased employee satisfaction, engagement and eroded productivity.


Peter Drucker brought clarity with the axiom that “you can only improve what you measure and manage.” Are the states of California, Utah, and North Dakota measuring the success of their training programs intended to protect against workplace bullying? Not so much . . . and neither reporting, mitigation, nor measurement are included as elements of any state’s proposed legislation.

While ahead of the pack, California, Utah and North Dakota might most accurately be considered as the tallest of the 50 dwarf states on the issue of workplace bullying. Mandatory training – while a step in the right direction – is a baby step 16 years in the making. Until a state adopts legislation that mandates training PLUS reporting, mitigation, measurement, and accountability, it’s hard to point to a national leader.

#workplacebullying #antibullying #employmentlaw #shrm