New York Healthy Workplace Advocates


Workplace bullying -- interpersonal mistreatment, harassment, psychological violence -- directly affects approximately 1 in 6 American workers. It poses an occupational health hazard. Too few targeted individuals complain. Existing laws require harassment to be discriminatory. Race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation is required to be illegal. Approximately two-thirds of all harassment is 'status-blind' and legal. In 1998, the Washington Post editorialized "what bothers people about abusive workplace conduct, after all, is not the fact that it may be discriminatory but that it is abusive in the first place."


The Healthy Workplace Bill substitutes health-impairment for discrimination, and extends protection to all employees, working for either public or private employers, regardless of protected group status, who seek redress for being subjected to an abusive work environment. It becomes unlawful to be subjected to another employee whose malicious conduct sabotages or undermines the targeted person's work performance. Furthermore, the bill punishes retaliation of the complainant or anyone who helps the complainant.


Serious psychological violence, in sub-lethal and non-physical forms, creates an abusive workplace and affects the targeted person's health. Demonstrable physical or mental health harm can include shame, humiliation, stress, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reduced immunity to infection, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, and pathophysiologic changes that increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The bill requires documentation of such impairment by a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or by competent expert evidence at trial.


Individual plaintiffs must rely solely on private attorneys. The State has no enforcement role. No government bureaucracy will be created or funded. Individuals may accept workers' compensation benefits in lieu of bringing action under this bill.


The bullying employee is directly liable for the unlawful employment practice. He or she is the first one to sue. The employer may be vicariously liable. However, the bill provides ample opportunities for employers to not be held liable: (1) when it exercises reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the abusive conduct, and (2) when negative employment decisions are consistent with legitimate business interests, or the employee's poor performance, illegal or unethical activity. The bill seeks to compel employer prevention through internal policies and enforcement. No new employer regulations are created.



·         Addresses only the most abusive, health-endangering circumstances

·         Does a not mandate “feeling good” principle; the employee’s health must have been damaged!

·         No new government bureaucracy; costs the state nothing

·         Good employers with policies that honestly enforce them have nothing to fear

·         The small penalties will discourage attorneys from taking weak cases -- low chance of frivolous cases


This is the first American legislation to catch up with legal protections for workers in rest of the industrialized world!


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