California Remains at the Forefront of Worker Protection Laws by Targeting Bullying | DCR Workforce Blog

California Remains at the Forefront of Worker Protection Laws by Targeting Bullying

california lawWorkplaces, 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:

  • Behavior which can be called “malicious”. This is defined as a deliberate intention to cause injury or despicable conduct which willfully and consciously disregards the rights or safety of others; hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.
  • Repeated verbal abuse, using derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets.
  • Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating.
  • Gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance by purposely downgrading them or providing someone else for the work performed – repeatedly.
  • A single act would not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe or egregious.

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.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.