Thursday, May 13, 2010

Anti-Bullying Legislation Passes NY Senate

Congress2I'm sure that David Yamada (Suffolk) is doing a dance of joy today with the news that the New York State Senate passed S. 1823-B, a bill to create a private cause of action for employees subject to an abusive working environment. From the Senate's press release,

this legislation provides legal redress for employees who have been harmed psychologically, physically or economically by being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments; and it provides legal incentives for employers to prevent and respond to mistreatment of employees at work. 

Surveys and studies demonstrate that 16 to 21 percent of employees experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse and harassment, and that this behavior is 4 times more prevalent then sexual harassment. These studies have also documented the serious effects on these targeted employees.  They include: shame, humiliation, stress, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, reduced immunity to infection, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension and pathophysiologic changes that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The social and economic well-being of the State is dependent upon healthy, safe, and productive employees,” said Senator [Thomas P.] Morahan [Chairman of the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities].  “I want to thank all my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, who voted for this legislation.  In particular, Senator George Onorato, Chairman of the Labor Committee, Republican Leader Dean Skelos, Majority Conference Leader John Sampson and Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein for helping secure passage of the legislation”.

“I became aware of the prevalence of abusive environments in the workplace when one of my constituents brought her situation at her place of employment to my attention.  It became apparent that legislation was needed to address the problem,” said Morahan. 

“Workplace bullying, abuse and harassment bring with them a variety of very serious human and economic costs,” said Senator George Onorato, Chairman of the Labor Committee and co-prime sponsor of the legislation. “Abusive behavior can cause grievous harm to employees who are the victims of it, leading to all manner of health problems and, often, forcing them to leave their jobs to escape it.  In addition, it costs employers in terms of lost employee productivity, and other workplace problems.  By taking aim at abusive work environments, this legislation will protect employees from inappropriate behavior and help our businesses to become more productive and successful.”  

“Mistreatment of employees in the workplace is a serious issue, but too often, workers have no recourse when they are subject to an abusive work environment,” said Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos. “Senator Morahan’s legislation will help employees who have been harmed, physically, mentally or financially, and will encourage employers to do more to prevent and respond to this problem.”

“We are truly appreciative of Senator Morahan’s efforts which have culminated in the passage of vital legislation in the New York State Senate,” said  New York Healthy Workplace Advocate State Coordinators Mike Schlicht and Tom Witt.

This bill must still pass the New York State Assembly and be signed by the governor to become law.


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Marcia, yes, I'm delighted about this development.

I'm also very, very heartened that the bill was the result of bipartisan co-sponsorship between two legislative leaders, Senator Thomas Morahan (R-Rockland Co.) and Senator George Onorato (D-Queens). It is nicely symbolic, especially in view of the political climate in this country, that they could come together to support legislation that will protect all workers from abusive treatment at work.

Thanks much,
David Yamada

Posted by: David Yamada | May 13, 2010 1:53:44 PM

Congratulations to NY, and to Prof. Yamada for years of tireless work on this important issue.

Posted by: Alek Felstiner | May 13, 2010 9:34:25 PM

This bill, if enacted, will not help the employment picture. It is simply a back-door effort to undermine employment-at-will. By making it so difficult to terminate an employee employers will be very wary when hiring. This may be partly offset by the increase in work for attorneys since it looks like it should be called "The Attorney Full Employment Act") NY will become like Italy where similar laws result in almost 20% of the workforce being paid cash and off-the-books. See what NYC's liberal tabloid has published:

Posted by: joe marino | May 20, 2010 5:48:55 AM

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