As a Tennessee appellate court noted in rejecting Joan Frye’s lawsuit against her hospital employer, “[T]he fact that a supervisor is mean, hard to get along with, overbearing, belligerent or otherwise hostile and abusive does not violate civil rights statutes.” Some legislators are trying to change that (excited in part by Suffolk Law Professor David Yamada’s theory of making “bullying” actionable). The ABA Journal is the latest to note the trend. (The article unfortunately repeats the false smear against my colleague John Bolton.) As we noted last May,
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.
Employment attorney Richard Block is more blunt in the ABA Journal: “You’re talking about a lifetime annuity of work for employment lawyers.” Bills are pending in thirteen states.