Workplaces, like school grounds, can prove hellish for some people. There are numerous situations in which workers face colleagues and superiors who curse, yell, scold, and treat them with downright disrespect, if not derision. Nearly everyone has experienced a boss who micromanages or just cannot get over a superior attitude which should have gone out with feudalism.
In this blog, we have frequently reported on the efforts of the California legislature to create a more worker-friendly environment. Many laws passed in 2014 go into effect next week, with others being enacted throughout 2015. Now, California and other states are tackling the issue of workplace bullying. California has just passed a law (AB2053) which requires employers in the state, with 50 or more workers, to incorporate anti-workplace bullying training into the mandated sexual harassment raining that supervisors undergo every 2 years. Not having the necessary training in place could render the employer legally liable for workplace bullying.
But, many questions arise: How can bullying be defined? What kind of cases will be filed? Can a demanding/exacting and goal-oriented supervisor be classified as a bully? Who has the time to follow up on complaints against goal-oriented supervisors who cannot tolerate any shirking from their teams? We will have to wait a while for the answers.
Workplace bullying is not illegal. A worker does not automatically have the right to sue the employer or seek damages when they suffer from bullying at the workplace unless they belong to one of the protected classes under other laws like the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Here are some acts which would be classified as bullying:
While this bill only mandates training for supervisors regarding workforce bullying, most companies do attempt to curb bullying in the workplace. Because bullying results in further abusive behavior among the team members, vitiating the total atmosphere of the workplace, companies take steps to eliminate bullying through training and intervention efforts.
Anti-bullying laws are not limited to California alone. Similar laws can be found in Tennessee and 30 other states in America. Employers operating in more than one state will need to adopt their training programs to the applicable laws for each work location and incorporate the state-specific requirements in their corporate policies, employee handbooks and manuals with appropriate disciplinary action for violators.
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