In a new, multi-author volume published by Aspatore, Navigating Municipal Employment Issues: Leading Lawyers on Analyzing the Latest Employment Trends, Creating Effective Strategies, and Resolving Conflicts (2011), municipal law expert John J. Cloherty III identifies workplace bullying as an emerging legal issue for state and local governments:
In the aftermath of some highly publicized suicides of Massachusetts high school students who were alleged victims of school bullying, the Commonwealth passed anti-bullying legislation and is now one of forty-three states in the country with similar legislation. . . . Given the periodic publicity concerning incidents of workplace violence and statistics documenting the frequency of workplace violence, we can foresee the legislature stepping in with laws prohibiting workplace bullying.
Protected class status
For now, however, Cloherty acknowledges that courts are likely to dismiss claims for bullying-type behaviors that are not motivated by protected class status such as race or sex and thus not covered by employment discrimination laws. In fact, he cites recent federal court decisions confirming that “mere ‘workplace bullying'” unrelated to discriminatory animus may not be legally actionable.