Do school bullying laws pave the way for the Healthy Workplace Bill?

I’ve been pondering recent posts by attorney Michael Fox, host of the thoughtful and informative Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer blog, who suggests that the growing attention to school bullying legislation may help pave the way for workplace bullying legislation.  On February 1, he wrote:

Although there are obvious differences between school and the workplace, and perhaps more importantly between students and employees, once it has become accepted that the appropriate tool for controlling bullying behavior is legislation, I am afraid it is only a matter of time before some state decides if it works for the schools, it will also work on the job. How far are we on the school front? According to Bully Police USA, 41 states already have legislation dealing with bullying in the schools.

On March 11 he responded to an $800,000 award in a school bullying case with this:

It has long been my view that the most likely path for a bullying cause of action recognized in the workplace (other than the continuous efforts of Professor David Yamada) is the widespread acceptance of anti-bullying legislation applicable to the schools.

…It may be yet awhile before the first state enacts anti-bullying legislation in the workplace, but having been following it for more than seven years…, I am beginning to think of it in terms of likely, if not inevitable.

For Michael, whose practice concentrates on representing employers, this isn’t a welcomed development.  He is no fan of workplace bullying, but he opposes workplace bullying legislation such as the Healthy Workplace Bill, preferring that employers deal with this problem voluntarily.

Time will tell if school bullying laws soften the way for workplace bullying laws, but I’m heartened by the fact that we’re starting to connect the dots on these forms of abusive behavior.  School bullying, workplace bullying, domestic abuse, child abuse…there are many ties that bind among these forms of mistreatment.

Fox’s February 1 post

Fox’s March 11 post

(These posts represent something of a cross-blog dialogue between Michael and me.  Michael was one of the first bloggers to welcome Minding the Workplace to the blogosphere, and our ongoing exchanges are evidence of how this medium — despite other examples to the contrary — can host honest differences of opinion in a respectful and friendly way.)

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