One of things I try to do on this blog is look through our crystal ball and focus on topic that may be on the horizon.

For some time now, workplace bullying has seemed to be one of those issues. I’ve touched on it before, but today my colleague Chris Parkin is back with some further discussion on it. 

In the meantime, we’ll be discussing this more in-depth at our FREE Labor & Employment Law Seminar on October 31st.   Please be sure to sign up ASAP if you’re interested because we are starting to get close to our capacity. 

Workplace bullying is real.  It happens every day in offices and on job sites throughout Connecticut.

Does an employer have an obligation to prevent or stop it? Is bullying illegal? The answer surprises HR managers and bullying victims alike: there’s no federal or Connecticut law against bullying in the workplace.

It’s perfectly legal to be an abrasive, even abusive, supervisor or colleague.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

And indeed, just because bullying may not be completely outlawed, it does not mean that employers are off the hook entirely.  Indeed, workplace bullying conduct may nevertheless give rise to claims of discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision, among others.

To date, few of these bullying-type claims have been brought in Connecticut but the potential for claims is real, particularly when the alleged victim is a member of a protected class.

In addition, there is a national effort to lobby state legislatures to pass anti-bullying legislation.  Despite years of lobbying, only California has passed a major bill relating to bullying.  Just last month, the state passed a bill that expands their sexual harassment training requirement to include “prevention of abusive conduct” as a component.

Anti-bullying legislation has been proposed in Connecticut on several occasions.  The most recent effort to curb bullying in Connecticut (in 2012) would have required public sector employees to report all complaints of abusive conduct and workplace violence on an annual basis.

Like its predecessors, it failed to make it through the legislative process.  The recent passage of the California training requirement may be a look into Connecticut’s future though.  Like California, Connecticut is among the three states to mandate sexual harassment training.  The California law provides a template for a adding a bullying training requirement here in Connecticut.

We’ll talk about all of this at the seminar next week. Hope to see you there.