The Legislature is looking at expanding the law to protect all employees from bullying and harassment – regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation – from not only employers, but from co-workers as well.
According to the Healthy Workplace bill, which passed the House and is now in that chamber's committee for a third reading, upwards of 59 percent of employees experience bullying or abuse on the job.
The bill's sponsors, Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, and Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, write that this number is four times that of those who experience sexual harassment.
And if maltreated employees cannot establish that the abuse was motivated by race, gender, age, sexual orientation or another protected status, they have little recourse, the bill states.
But under the proposed law employers would be liable for such mistreatment, regardless of whether the bully was a boss or a co-worker. The bill is careful to spell out that the law would be intended for a pattern of abuse, not a single act unless is it egregious.
If an employer fails to stop such abuse, he or she can face big penalties, including damages up to $25,000, reinstatement of the abused employee and other penalties. The monetary penalty would not apply to employee defendants.
The Legislature has until July 31 to act on the bill.