Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, December 20, 2004

Washington, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, California -- Bullying Legislation Headed Your Way: Wait a Minute, Oklahoma?

The bullybusters are back, with their reborn website:
Tuesday, December 14th, 2004: Welcome to the reborn Bullybusters website! We began the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying in 1997. Since then, we've helped over 4,300 individuals Bullied at Work. We've conducted three waves of systematic research and published two books. In addition, the first U.S. Anti-Bullying Legislation was proposed because thanks to our network of Bullybusters!
And according to the website, they hope to offer legislation in Washington, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, California. Three of those I can understand, but Oklahoma? Regular readers will know I have been keeping an eye on the advancement of arguments for a bullying cause of action, which already exists in Europe. I happened on the revised website, courtesy of a story in the Seattle Times, Bullying at work gains visibility which appears to be sourced by the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Worksite, a group apparently created by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, whose bios can be found at another of their websites, the Work

I must admit to being somewhat skeptical about 'research' such as the 2003 Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute Report on the Abusive Worksite that is self described as follows:
Source: Data were gathered in 2003 from anonymous and confidential online surveys posted at this website -- A "nonscientific" sample of 1,000 volunteer respondents (a respondent is one who completes the survey) who visited the website seeking solutions to their vexing problems at work attributed to a directly experienced cruelty from one or more persons. The research was necessarily done from the perspective of targeted individuals. Participants had the option of completing all or some of the 22-section survey.
I am even more skeptical of the benefit of unleashing the American legal system on something as ill defined as "bullying."


I'm so proud to see that my home state (Oklahoma) is on the front lines of this urgent battle. But I don't think the state legislature has thought this one through very carefully. "Next on the docket, your honor, Brown v. Stoops, a cause of action for bullying." And to think that this comes from the state where we are fighting for the right to keep loaded weapons on an employer's property (wait, maybe that does make sense - how else to deter bullying?) Geesh. The wussification of America is nearly complete.
Bullying, harassment, hurting one's feelings--they're all about the same. Behavior, including mere words, can be an invitation to a breach of the peace. For example, a person who is in a place where he has no right to be, may be trespassing. If the person refuses to leave when asked, he has breached the peace because his refusal invites the use of modest force to remove him. Breach of peace has a long history. What is the world is the purpose of making a tort out of hurting another's feelings if breach of the peace provides a remedy? If the behavior does not even breach the peace, why make it actionable except to redistribute wealth with a forty percent commission to the plaintiff's lawyer? Breach of peace can of course be a tort as well as a minor crime if the breach causes damage.
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