Anti-Bullying Protections Creeping into Employment Law

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As our blog followers and workplace breakfast attendees know, we have been watching for potential creep of the anti-bullying movement into actual workplace protections. On September 9, 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a new requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide two hours of supervisor training every two years which is to include a component on preventing “abusive conduct.” A.B. 2053. California has not recognized this as a protected group or instituted penalties for such conduct BUT it has defined “abusive conduct” within the educational statute, opening the door for recognition of a remedy for such conduct. Several national groups advocate for legal protections for employees against workplace bullying or hostilities.

“Abusive conduct” as defined now in California law, does NOT require a discriminatory motivation, but is instead “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive and unrelated to legitimate business interests.” Examples provided in the statute include repeated verbal abuse, physical intimidation, and the gratuitous sabotaging and undermining of work performance. A single instance may constitute “abusive conduct” if sufficiently severe and egregious.

Washington currently address workplace bullying as a workplace safety issue for which it offers educational posters as part of prevention efforts, but does not have statutory protections. Washington’s address on workplace bullying can be found at We will continue to monitor these developments and apprise clients of the progress (or lack thereof) of this potential workplace protection.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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