Presented in Philly: “The Gradual But Inevitable March Toward Enacting Workplace Anti-Bullying Laws in the United States”

I just spent several days at the biennial Work, Stress and Health Conference, held this year in Philadelphia. The conference is co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology. This is one of my very favorite conferences, and over the years I’ve learned so much by attending and participating in it.

For now, I simply wanted to share part of a handout that I prepared for a conference symposium, “The U.S. Workplace Bullying Movement: Assessing Two Decades of Progress,” which also included Drs. Gary Namie, Loraleigh Keashly, and Maureen Duffy — all among the pioneers in our efforts to respond to workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse. My talk was a summary of our ongoing efforts to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the United States, including a short timeline:

A Selective Timeline of Highlights

  • 2000 – Basic parameters for the eventual drafting of the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) are set out in David C. Yamada, The Phenomenon of “Workplace Bullying” and the Need for Status-Blind Hostile Work Environment Protection,” Georgetown Law Journal (2000).
  • 2002 – I draft and begin circulating early iterations of the HWB.
  • 2003-04 – California becomes the first state to consider the HWB.
  • 2003-present – Over 30 state and territorial legislatures have considered versions of the HWB.
  • Early 2000s – Various states consider bills designed to create study commissions and climate surveys about workplace bullying.
  • 2010 — New York State Senate passes HWB.
  • 2010 – Illinois State Senate passes a version of the HWB applying to public sector workers only.
  • 2010s – Several Employee Practices Liability Insurance policies start to cover liability for bullying-related claims.
  • 2011-12 – Massachusetts House of Representatives moves the HWB to a stage known as “third reading,” making it eligible for a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
  • 2012 – Prompted by the HWB grassroots advocacy movement, more than 100 U.S. local governmental entities issue proclamations endorsing “Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week.”
  • 2013 – Fulton County, Georgia county government (covering Greater Atlanta) adopts a workplace bullying ordinance covering public workers, using the operative definition from the HWB, and permitting discipline or termination of offending employees.
  • 2014 – California enacts legislation that requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisory training and education about workplace bullying, using the operative definition from the HWB.
  • 2014 – New Hampshire governor vetoes problematic workplace bullying legislation that would have covered public sector workers.
  • 2015 – Utah enacts legislation requiring state agencies to train supervisors and employees about workplace bullying prevention, using the operative definition from the HWB.
  • 2019 – Building on a 2014 law covering state and local public employers, Tennessee enacts an odd statute that immunizes employers from bullying-related legal claims if they have adopted a model anti-bullying policy.
  • 2019-20 — Massachusetts HWB attracts 109 co-sponsors, out of 200 elected state legislators.
  • 2019-20 – Rhode Island State Senate passes the HWB.

To be sure, this has been a long haul. But we are nearing the day when a state legislature enacts the full version of the HWB, and when it does, other states will very likely follow. This will be the first workplace anti-bullying law in North America to provide a private right of action for damages for severely bullied workers and liability-reducing incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying at work.  

4 responses

  1. Dear David,
    Thank you so much for all the work you do to pass this
    Deep Gratitude,
    ~Mary Lou Conca

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thank you for addressing the much needed Workplace Anti-bullying laws. Being a former victim, harassment & retaliation occurred on a regular basis. After reporting my “brother’s” (union facility) to the Human Resource manager, I was informed that “it’s a union issue”! Long story short, the International Union found the “brothers” guilty of retaliation, however, there is no punishment for their offense & they continued to serve the membership while I continued to be bullied!

    Since I was not included in the “protected” class I continued to be a victim! Harassment is harassment!

    Theresa Holmes

  3. Pingback: Puerto Rico enacts workplace anti-bullying law « Minding the Workplace

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