On the surface it seems to be a reason to celebrate. But the bill passed by the New York State Senate on the subjuct of workplace bullying is a hoax engineered by a well organized lobby. What appears to be an advance in labor law could have the effect of gutting labor law. The groups lobbying for this bill, which have "activists" meeting regularly and generating support campaigns, are trying to get this bill passed in Illinois next, and they are active in several states.
While a workplace anti-bullying law is welcome, the damage limits must be changed and rendered meaningful if the bill is to act as a deterrent.
I hope some labor law and union stewardship mavens out there will post their opinions, as I am not a labor lawyer.
Here is the link to the full text of the bill.
It establishes grounds for lawsuits over workplace bullying. The goals of the legislation are admirable, but the problem is in the limit of damages. If the person making the complaint has not been fired, the damages are limited to $25,000. This is a dream come true for corporations, who only need to turn hate crime, harassment, or wage and hour cases into a bullying case and walk away paying insignificant damages. Cases in which people collected $1 million under existing laws could result in an award of only $25,000. Given the puny damages, as compared to attorney's fees, the willingness of an attorney to pursue a case would be about zero. Any deterrent effect of possible damages is gutted. Here is the clause (The all caps style is present in the original text posted online on the State Senate website):
WHERE AN EMPLOYER HAS BEEN FOUND TO HAVE CAUSED OR MAINTAINED AN ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT DID NOT RESULT IN A NEGATIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION, SUCH EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS SHALL NOT EXCEED TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS AND SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
And here is more. All a company can do is construct "preventive and corrective opportunities" for the plaintiff and it is blame free. We all know that meaningless "corrective" opportunities can be constructed for employees and the employee would have to follow them even if the employee thinks the actions will have no benefit of even make the situation worse.
IT SHALL BE AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT, THAT THE EMPLOYER EXERCISED REASONABLE CARE TO PREVENT AND PROMPTLY CORRECT THE ABUSIVE CONDUCT WHICH IS THE BASIS OF SUCH CAUSE OF ACTION AND THE PLAINTIFF UNREASONABLY FAILED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE APPROPRIATE PREVENTIVE OR CORRECTIVE OPPORTU NITIES PROVIDED BY SUCH EMPLOYER. SUCH AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE SHALL NOT BE AVAILABLE TO AN EMPLOYER WHEN THE ABUSIVE CONDUCT CULMINATES IN A NEGATIVE EMPLOYMENT DECISION WITH REGARD TO THE PLAINTIFF.