Got a “mean” boss? See ‘em in court

by Walter Olson on May 15, 2007

We’ve reported before (here and here) on the campaign by activists to establish a cause of action arising from “workplace bullying”. Efforts to get the courts to create such a right have not fared well, but the National Law Journal reports growing interest around the state legislatures:

Connecticut, for example, wants to outlaw “threatening, intimidating or humiliating” conduct by a boss or co-worker and would ban repeated insults and epithets. The proposal doesn’t specify a penalty, but would only give workers the grounds to sue.

New York’s anti-bullying legislation targets malicious conduct by supervisors that hurts employees either physically or psychologically. Mental health harm could include humiliation, stress, loss of sleep, severe anxiety and depression. The bill also would punish retaliation of the complainant or anyone who helps the complainant.

As management lawyers warn, enactments of this sort could result in a large new volume of litigation; the ample scope for differences of opinion about what constitutes hurtful sarcasm or a humiliating memo style could turn the courts into ongoing “superpersonnel departments” dispensing financial balm for injured feelings in the workplace. (cross-posted from Point of Law).

{ 3 comments }

1 Supremacy Claus 05.16.07 at 12:51 am

Fine. But only if the same statutory language applies to the effects of bullying by legal predators used in a claim. Very hurtful and disruptive, often unjust.

A course of action should be enacted for the same effects of bullying language uttered by a judge in trial. Denial of a motion, over-ruling of an objection. Very hurtful, and intentionally distressing.

The shock and dismay when notice of a legal claim is handed over by a sheriff? Actionable. What utterance is more abusive and disruptive than that?

Justice requires balance. The utterance by an employee of the reply to the employer, “What-evur.” Actionable, as hurtful and damaging.

I would like an express and absolute safe harbor in statute for the expression, “Have a blessed day,” however sarcastic the tone.

2 David Wilson 05.16.07 at 10:47 am

Interesting. Beyond the obvious costs of the new realm of litigation, there will be other costs, namely, more inefficient business. Lazy or sloppy workers won’t be prodded to work harder or better for fear of this litigation, and performance of a company or business will suffer. Didn’t get your order on time? Well, don’t expect that next round, either, because whoever screwed up won’t have to worry about shaping up. And you could yell at the incompetent outfit, as we sometimes do, but it falls on deaf ears. Customer service in America (or India!) is at abysmal lows, for any number of reasons. This won’t help.

3 Deoxy 05.16.07 at 11:55 am

“As management lawyers warn, enactments of this sort could result in a large new volume of litigation”

“WARN”? Hello, that’s the WHOLE POINT!

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