Los Angeles partner Kate Gold and associate Phil Lebel were quoted in an article for SHRM titled “Workplace Bullying and Harassment: What’s the Difference?” The article explores how bullying behaviors that don’t qualify as unlawful harassment can be addressed through workplace civility policies.
Bullying is actionable under federal law only when the basis for it is tied to a protected category, such as race or sex. However, Kate and Phil explained that bullies can create morale problems and other workplace issues even in situations where their actions don’t constitute unlawful conduct. They also discussed recent state efforts to prevent bullying, such as Tennessee’s Healthy Workplace Act, which prohibits workplace bullying that is not tied to a protected category. This statute is only applicable to public employers in Tennessee, but there is pending legislation that would extend protections to the private sector.
The article also mentions that California businesses are required to provide anti-bullying training to their supervisors, and Kate and Phil added that “[i]t would not be surprising to see more states pass laws requiring employers to train employees on anti-bullying.”