Invitation to Endorse the following landmark legislation
Workplace Bill: Ending Abusive
Assembly AB 1582, Authors:
Koretz [916-319-2042] & McLeod [916-319-2061]
Workplace bullying -- interpersonal mistreatment, harassment,
psychological violence -- directly affects 1 in 6 American workers. It
poses an occupational health hazard. Few of the targeted individuals
complain. Existing laws require harassment to be discriminatory. Either
race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical
disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex,
age, or sexual orientation is required to be illegal. Approximately
two-thirds of all harassment is 'status-blind' and legal. In
1998, the Washington Post editorialized
"what bothers people about abusive workplace conduct, after all, is
not the fact that it may be discriminatory but that it is abusive in the
This bill substitutes health-impairment
for discrimination, and extends protection to all
employees, public and private sector, regardless
of protected group status, who seek redress for being subjected to an abusive work environment. It becomes unlawful to be
subjected to another employee who, with malice, repeatedly inflicts verbal
abuse, engages in verbal or physical behaviors that a reasonable person
would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or performs
gratuitous sabotage or undermining of the targeted person's work
performance through acts of commission or omission. Furthermore, the bill
punishes retaliation for making a charge, testifying, assisting or
participating in the investigation of a charge.
Serious psychological violence, in
sub-lethal and non-physical forms, creates an abusive workplace and
affects the targeted person's health. Demonstrable physical or mental
health harm includes a host of stress-related diseases. The bill requires
documentation of such impairment by a physician, psychologist,
psychiatrist, psychotherapist or by competent expert evidence at trial.
Remedies by the court may include, but
not be limited to, reinstatement,
removal of the offending party from the complainant's work environment, back pay, front pay,
medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages,
and attorney's fees. Individual plaintiffs must rely solely on private
attorneys. The State has no enforcement role. Individuals may accept
workers' compensation benefits in lieu of bringing action under this bill.
The bill makes an employer vicariously
liable for unlawful employment practices committed by its employees.
However, the bill provides two employer affirmative defense opportunities:
(1) when it exercises reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the
abusive conduct, and (2) when negative employment decisions are consistent
with legitimate business interests, or the employee's poor performance,
illegal or unethical activity. The bill also caps the employer's liability
for emotional distress at $25,000 without punitive damages if the employer
does not terminate, constructively discharge, demote, use unfavorable
reassignment, refuse to promote, or start disciplinary action against the
employee (all are negative employment decisions). The bill seeks to compel
employer prevention through internal policies and enforcement. No new
employer regulations are created.
This is the first North American
legislation to match legal progress in the industrialized world!
Workplace Bullying &
Gary Namie, Ph.D.