By Keith J. Ferrante
Gazette staff writer
Albany — A bill introduced in the Assembly to combat workplace bullying is quickly gaining support from both lawmakers and hundreds of New Yorkers from all corners of the state who have signed on to a petition to end workplace bullying.
Bill A.3250, sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, has broad support in the Assembly, with 79 additional Assembly members co-sponsoring the legislation. Known as the Healthy Workplace Bill, it is related to the Healthy Workplace Campaign, which is a national effort to address workplace bullying and abuse.
The bill establishes a civil cause of action for employees who are subjected to an abusive work environment. It also defines what a healthy workplace is, noting that one-third of all employees will experience workplace bullying, abuse or harassment, which endangers their health during their working careers.
Unhealthy work environments can also cause a decrease in employee productivity and morale, lead to a high turnover rate and an increase in claims for medical and workers compensation, according to the bill.
Supporters of the bill say that under current law, if employees have been subjected to abuse or harassment and they cannot prove their treatment was motivated by race, color, sexual orientation, origin or age, then those employees are unlikely to be protected.
Twenty-nine states and two U.S. territories have introduced similar legislation, with Tennessee, California and Utah passing those bills to become laws. In New York, the legislation was first introduced in 2006 and since then, lawmakers in this state have introduced more versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill than any other state.
A petition to support the effort was started recently by a New York City college professor and is quickly gaining attention as the signatories seek support from the Legislature and the Governor in combating workplace abuse/bullying and discrimination.
Gregg Morris, a Hunter College professor in Manhattan, visited Albany last Wednesday, to deliver the petition to the Assembly, Senate and the Governor’s Office. Currently at 439 signatures, Morris’ goal is to reach 500 signatures on the petition, which defines workplace bullying to include verbal abuse, psychological abuse, work interference and/or work sabotage.
Morris said that action needed to be taken immediately so the Healthy Workplace Bill could potentially be passed this year after previous unsuccessful efforts by the Legislature, which date back to 2006 when the bill was first introduced.
“Psychologically injured employees can’t wait for a voluntary anti-bullying movement as you clearly demonstrate and we all know that psychological damage leads to harmful health consequences for both the bullied and their families,” Morris said.
The bill is currently in the Assembly Labor Committee and it has no corresponding bill in the Senate.