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The Healthy Workplace Bill Update and Workplace Bullying

The Healthy Workplace Bill was originally written in 2001 by Suffolk University professor David Yamada.  While it has been introduced to Congress in 26 states, it has yet to pass in a single one. Currently 15 states–Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin and others–have 21 active bills.

What is the Healthy Workplace Bill? According to the Healthy Workplace Bill website, it primarily focuses on having a working environment free from “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators,” otherwise known as bullying. We hear so much in the media about children and teen bullying but tend to deny problems still exist as we grow up.

Gary Namie, co-founder and director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, said, “The [Incognito-Martin] story, which shocked many with its details of repeated abuse, underscores the need for legislation on workplace bullying.”

How is bullying perpetrated in the workplace? According to the Healthy Workplace Bill website, it is through one or more of the following:

  • –Verbal abuse.

  • –Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating

  • –Work interference – sabotage – that prevents work from getting done.

One challenge that the legislation is trying to fix is the connection of bullying to protected status discrimination. If an employee being bullied endured the harassment because of a protected qualification such as age, race or disability, they have a more compelling case. If their complaint, however, is outside of that, they are nearly out of luck. “For example, if you are a white female being bullied by a white female or a man of color being bullied by another man of color you are not protected,” says the Site FAQ.

In 2013, Florida introduced Healthy Workplace legislation for the first time, and it became the 23rd state to do so. The HB 149 included public and private sector employees while SB 108 was written for public workers and educators.

What happened to these proposed bills? According to the Healthy Workplace Bill blog, “A recent survey found that 93 percent of Americans support legislation that would offer protections against bullying at work.” Both Bills, however, “died in Government Operations Subcommittee on Friday, May 03, 2013,” reported the Florida House of Representatives website. Even thought it never made it to a vote, current legislation is again being introduced to the Florida House and Senate.

Workplace bullying doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Every day it becomes more important to pass legislation about the issue. If you feel you have suffered workplace bullying, contact Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A.. We have the professional knowledge and expertise to help you through the process.

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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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