Judy Greenwald, in a piece on workplace bullying for Business Insurance, quotes management-side employment lawyers as conceding that enactment of workplace bullying legislation is an eventual likelihood:
“I think it’s inevitable,” said Robert Nobile, a partner with law firm Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P. in New York, noting several European countries already have anti-bullying laws.
Anti-bullying legislation has been defeated four times in Oregon, but “it’s a matter of time before there is a statute,” said Tamsen L. Leachman, a partner with law firm Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue L.L.P. in Portland, Ore.
Lack of understanding
The rest of the article indicates that many management-side lawyers who oppose the Healthy Workplace Bill may not understand the relatively high thresholds imposed for winning a claim, as well as the provisions built into the statute that discourage frivolous claims and provide legal incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying at work. (For a lengthier explanation, see my earlier post, Why the Healthy Workplace Bill is not a “job killer”.)
Where’s the empathy?
What’s absent from the piece is the most disturbing, namely, the lack of acknowledgement of the destructive effects of abusive treatment on workers’ mental and physical health. My gosh, we’re talking about a form of abuse that triggers depression, anxiety attacks, and PTSD-type symptoms! How can the law be largely silent toward this depth of suffering? (And it it any surprise that the legal profession generates so many complaints about workplace bullying?)
Because I’m being especially critical of some of my colleagues on the management side of the employment bar, I thought it only fair to add links to some of the thoughtful commentary from lawyers who represent companies:
Jon Hyman, Empathy does not require liability
Michael Fox, Bullying As a Cause of Action: One Large Step Closer