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July 26th, 2010
11:00 AM ET

Workplace bullying bill passes N.Y. Senate

(CNN) – Is your boss a bully? If so, should that behavior be considered illegal? New York may become the first state to outlaw workplace bullying. The state Senate has passed a bill that would allow workers to sue their bosses for medical expenses and lost wages for emotional stress. 16 other states are considering similar legislation. Adam Cohen is a lawyer and a contributor. He joined us on Monday's American Morning to discuss the implications of the bill.

Filed under: Business • Living
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Pete

    I have been going though hell for the past 18 months when a new manager came on board. Quite simply my manager's actions are personal, cruel, and unrelenting. I am not the only victim in our work place but certainly number one on her hit list! I have worked for my organization for 16 years with outt any problems what so ever. I wonder what 16 states are considering similar legislation? If California is on that list I would do what ever I could to get involved with promoting a bill that would address bullying bosses.

    August 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Debra Healy

    This legislation is so important.

    I'm grateful to everyone who is willing to share his or her story about abusive workplaces.

    Workplace abuse can be difficult to diagnose when you're the target – it gnaws at your self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of reality. Targets are usually hard workers and high achievers. Bullies feel threatened by these kinds of people and use their power to try to sabotage them. As your self-esteem decreases, it can become tougher and tougher to break the insidious cycle of abuse. I speak from experience.

    Giving this behavior a name was the first step.

    I'm convinced that organizations will not take this phenomenon seriously until is has the "teeth" of a law.

    Let's make healthy workplaces a reality – it's time.

    July 29, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  3. David Yamada

    As the author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, I want to thank CNN and Mr. Cohen for a very fairminded assessment of the need for workplace bullying legislation.

    If you've ever been so mistreated at work that you suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, digestive problems, or even post-traumatic symptoms (or know someone who has), you know this is about abuse, not simple incivility or bad management.

    Rather, it's about equal opportunity dignity and psychological health at work. I hope that people will support this legislation.

    David Yamada
    Professor of Law
    Suffolk University Law School, Boston
    Minding the Workplace blog at

    July 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  4. John Smurda

    I find this testimony give by the Conneticut State Coordinator for the Healthy Workplace Bill at a Senate Hearing very moving. I think everyone should read it. We need a law. Support the Healthy Workplace Bill

    July 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  5. John Smurda

    My name is John Smurda Ohio State Coordinator for the Healthy Workplace Bill. In Ohio there is an interest by electied officials at the state level to introduce a bill. I am compiling personal stories from indivduals (targets) who have contacted me. Many of these people don't fall into a protected class (age, sex , race ext.) One of the stories is very personal as it involves an immediant family member. Also bullys and bystanders, the people who stand by and watch a bully and don't report the abuse for what ever reason. I think this quote sums it up "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it"
    (Martin Luther King). I look foward to sharing these stories with with elected officals.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  6. BullyBusters

    Workplace bullying impacts 1 in 8 workers, 37% of the US workforce. Currently there are no laws to protect workers from this problem, despite strong research that shows that the bottom line suffers in businesses who do not address bullies in their midst. If you or anyone you know has experienced this problem visit the Workplace Bullying Institute for help and information how to deal with it! (

    Don't let the bully get you down! Getting PTSD at work makes work a war zone.

    July 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  7. Gary Namie

    Mr. Cohen does a good job of distinguishing between permitted managerial tasks and the over-the-top abusive conduct that this bill addresses. In fact, the text of the bill, called the Healthy Workplace Bill, does not even mention workplace bullying. Unlike critics, he actually read the bill and understands it and the implications of its passage. The legislative campaign to pass anti-bullying laws for workplaces in states has been active since 2003. 2011 will be a banner year. Join the campaign at FYI, NY Senate passed the bill but a single committee chair, Susan John, in the state Assembly killed the bill because she did not want to hurt business! And she's a dem not even running for re-election.

    July 28, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  8. Mike

    Have you heard about the oil leak in michigan 850,000 gallons in the river.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:02 am |
  9. art

    The Employee Free Choice Act is another solution for harassment in the workplace. Americans have more than enough reason to educate themselves about it, and there is a wealth of information about what it is, and how it works on the internet.

    Empower yourself with the knowledge of what it is, and how it would benefit your experience in the workplace, and then write your elected representatives in Washington D.C. to move the legislation through Congress and make it law.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:19 am |
  10. whynowcnn

    So why do we have the eeoc if it's not effective, why do we have all of the discriminatory laws if they aren't enforced? why do the worst people become the boss!! No interpersonal skills, and no real experience can make you a manager now, and with the economy in the tank they have become even more ruthless, so right to work states, and unions, and will to work laws destroyed any hopes of ever recovering money from an employer unless you die????

    July 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  11. whynowcnn

    It's a shame how big business, congress, and lawyers have crippled the strongest nation on earth. This proves that man is internally corrupt, and the Bible speak of these ill things!!! Greed and power have made the senate stagnant, and congeress pass laws to benefit the super rich , and they take the money to another country because it's cheaper, then they blame the administration for losing jobs, so if the govt is the largest employer, and we hire more people than most countries then why do we allow private industry to steal and decieve the American public. They had no intentions of creating any jobs, and they have just pilfered the publics money as a gift from the congress. Special interest groups play a mojor rolke as well, but can you expect any different from the NRA, Health industry, Big oil, Insurance, and defense contractors. All rule through scare tactics that played out in the 60's, but are still effective modern day!!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  12. Lucy Leon

    Does anyone know the name of an attorney in New York that handles work place bullying issues?

    July 27, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  13. Krista

    I wish Michigan would create a law also. I was bullied by my manager and when I told upper management about it everything got worse. There needs to be laws to protect Employees. Thats why the unemployment rate is so high also. These companies can fire anyone at anytime. If you dont fit into their click you can also be fired for personality conflict and that needs to change as well. We need to change the right to work law . How can people stay at a company when there are no rights or laws protecting them. Something needs to change. I'm so glad this issue is being put out there. RIGHT NOW I'M UNEMPLOYED FOR DEFENDING MYSELF. You can only take so much. For an example, I used to sell mens suits and I asked my manager "where these particular suited pants went" and she told me "you know where they go I'm not going to hold you by the hand". I did not know where they went and thats why I asked her. There are alot more incidents but I'm not going to go on. I'm glad people are comming forward.

    July 27, 2010 at 3:38 am |
  14. Sherry Lynn Wood

    I just recently viewed the video.. and its been a long time coming. It should be a law in all 50 states. Bully's are very insecure people. They lack interpersonal skills and I question how they ever get as far in business as they do. When you're in elementary school bully's take your lunch money.. a bully boss takes your life! I hope the law passes in NY and will trickle down to other states that will take notice. As a victim of "my bully boss" I once wrote a poem and I would like to share it. It sums it up really.

    "Bully the Boss"
    Bully the boss always lurking around
    Pointing his finger... always trying to keep you down
    The smiles are fake, we know he's wears a permanent frown

    Seems he always has the advantages when he micro-manages
    But as we go about our day we can try to have it our way
    But when bully the boss shows up... it's his way or the highway!

    Please feel free to add anything to this poem that makes you feel good.

    July 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  15. Kim Birchell

    Is there any way this law would make up for my sufferings with 2 different employers up to 15 years ago?

    July 26, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  16. Delta1.

    I work at a company in Charlotte, North Carolina called Designline. It is common practice for supervisors to yell at and belittle floor workers. Most people just take it because the economy is so bad they are afraid to lose their job. It can’t be reported to Human Resources because you have ask your supervisor for permission to go, it is a really bad situation

    July 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  17. Ingrid Guevara

    I am a 25 year HR professional with an extensive understanding of labor laws and I am a victim of workplace bullying. Just a month ago I ended up going to a mental hospital and was suicidal due to 2 years of my manager bullying and harassment. I was fired while on a protected leave for improper conduct since the HR dept did not want to expose this manager. This is a large California healthcare company that is supposed to be concern about employee mental and physical health. The law needs to be passed since HR is powerless to hold employers and bosses accountable if the laws are not clear. I am in the process of looking for a lawyer to represent me and it will be a long road to justice.

    July 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  18. Margaret O

    Sadly, more legislation and lawsuits are not going to help.

    Harassment in the workplace is illegal, but you had better be prepaid to find a new job if you report it to HR. HR is not a department for employees, but a first line of defense for the legal department.

    The real fix is for us as a society to expect people to conduct themselves with civility and manners. We need to hold the bar higher for ourselves, as well as others.

    July 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  19. Bill Kelly

    How's that going to work for the military?

    July 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  20. Fred

    This is a great option! In retail, I have seen bosses like this bring women to tears repeatedly. They show no remorse! People are afraid to go to HR because they know nothing is going to be done to the bully. Bosses like this rule with fear and when nothing is done to stop them, they get worse.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  21. Sherry Schodts

    I'm in favor 100 percent! Having worked for some bullies for 9+ years, it would have been nice to have been able to say "are you bullying me?" – whether I intended to sue or not – just so they'd hear the buzz word "bully" and back off! Things got really heated and ugly 4 years ago when they "retired me." But they are still bullying people with their screaming, threatening them with their jobs, and building a case against them so that they can turn around and fire them. They did it to me, and they keep doing it. And oh yes, did I happen to mention, they consider themselves a "family-oriented, family-operated" company? When a boss has to make up make up utter lies about you just so they can document it and then fire you, it's time to leave anyway.

    July 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  22. Jon K. Evans

    Some forms of checks should be put on Bully-Bosses. I had one accuse me of holding my "Make Busy" button for one hour. I had to write the Traffic Manager and let her know that fisticuffs would ensue if it happened again. I was removed from his cadre and transferred to another shift!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm |

    THIS IS ABOUT TIME! I am currenlty on suspesion from the American Red Cross of Greater NY without "due cause" with no prevouis disciplinary actions on my record. The American Red Cross of Greater NY is trying to force me to quit as I would have been the first African American Male to hold this position. All this after reporting a major notaional violation to my HR rep. THIS NEW LAW IS ESSENTIAL TO THE FUTURE OF ALL WORKPLACE ENVIROMENTS

    July 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  24. DG

    What kind of attorney would you use? I have a similar sitation

    July 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  25. archie

    what a nightmare this will create. just get a different job or do what you are to do at your job. no one was ever promised and happy or pleasant job. maybe, thats why they call it WORK. leave the government out.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  26. Faye Leonhardt

    I worked for a big petrochemical company in Texas and I documented all the bullying and harassment I got. HR was on the side of the company and finally I was "let go" with a compensation of $10,000 and sign a contract NOT TO SUE them....Because these big corporations have lots of high powered lawyers and deep pockets it's not worth the effort or the stress you are already under. Bullying is just wrong. Texas needs to pass that law too.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  27. wayne

    This story woke me up today. My boss and my coworkers are bullying someone at my workplace. HR won't do anything about it and either will my boss. I'm at my wits end. The coworker is a good worker and shouldn't be treated like this. How do they get away with this?

    July 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  28. Robert

    Been there! If it's too hot get out of the kitchen! If you can't conform and philosophically you can't live with it, then get another job!

    July 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  29. Tony

    I agree 100%! My boss was a bully. She constantly berated me and intentionally misrepresented my performance so she could terminate me...after 28 years of excellent reviews with the company. I'll bet she got a bonus for reducing staff/budget.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  30. Shannon

    I agree it is about time these specific individuals be held responsible for their actions on others (employees). Sometimes politics play a BIG part in this bullying and needs to be STOPPED! Individuals who lose their jobs due to political wars and boss bullying should be given more support and new laws are the answer!!! These bosses need to be put in their place. They are not "above" everyone else even though they "believe" they are. Bosses that act this way are fearful and insecure with themselves. Having individuals in charge of others with these personality characteristis is distructive and unhealthy for employees and not right. The employee and their loved ones suffer in these sistuations. Please bring these laws to Wisconsin and Minnesota!

    July 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  31. Tory Heckstall

    I've only been in my new position less then 6 months and I am starting to find myself being bulllied by my Supervisor. Every week, I would be called into her office discussing things that are petty and meaningless. On one particular day, she accussed me of something that wasn't true and as I tried to defend myself, she pointed her finger in my face, and told me that she didn't want to hear what I had to say, that when she says something to me, I should just say yes ma'am. I'm not one to allow myself to be bullied. ( not even in high school) I simply told her that that's not gonna happen! We can have this conversation or not OR, we could both write a letter to the Higher chain in command. But what will not happen, is me shaking my head and saying yes ma'am validating that someones' lie is true.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  32. kim johnson

    i am going thru this situation as we speak, i turned a letter of harrssment 1 year ago, then they retailated against me, threatened me with, screaming. making me feel as though i had done something really bad, like steal or worse, i felt horrible, after working, i would go home upset, & jump on my children, & my husband for dumb stuff, it really upset our home, i was stressed all the time, looking for another job was hard, i loved my job & my fellow associates, the associates knew of the harrassment, scared to speak of it, i recently got fired, i believe if you get fired, & harrassemtn chrges were previously charged, then when that person fires u, it shulbe brought in front of a counsel to determine if the person should in fadt be discharged, with the people involved present. i am seeking a lawyer at this time for my situation and you just made my day with this announcement. it upsets your whole life, when u get treated as if you are retarded. Plus Hr is my managers best friend, so she would lie about thngs she had told me in Hr, she never remembers anything. thanks for listening kim johnson

    July 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  33. john grimm

    If you ask me any boss who thinks they have to bully there workers to get what I call a power trip is unprofessional, this bill should be passed on a federal level. No employee should have to suffer any form of abuse from their employer.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  34. Rebecca Grimm

    There are many bosses that may be seen as bullies – that's why they're bosses. However, to look at the more problematic bosses, we might have to look first at their employee ratio. If for example, there are more employees leaving the company than there are being hired, then we might have a problem. Also, bosses give the employees an evaluation every year, but the employees don't have a safe way to evaluate their boss's performance. For example, if you work at a resteraunt, you would not want a boss that is more concerned about closing on time than getting the last of the dishes done. This would also discourage some bosses from practicing favoritism. Maybe there could be a safe way to evaluate these bosses online annomonously.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  35. peachy

    I work for a bully and I can tell you it is not fun. He must be right at all cost!!!! My co-workers and I definately work in a hostile environment and we are stuck. We like our job, but his constant barrage of nasty comments and emails is very disturbing. I wonder how he thinks this motivates us. We are a small private company and he is the owner so he believes he can do whatever he wants with no recourse. I am not a proponent of suing,but people should be held responsible for their actions and we have no human resourses department to go being able to get his attention with a law suit would be our only answer

    July 26, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  36. Sharon Carroll

    YEA AND IT'S ABOUT TIME! This segment woke me right out of my bed this morning! WAY TO GO! I have always said that people need to start interviewing employers and BOSSES need to start being held accountable for the way they treat people and stop telling employee's "its not personal, it's business". IT IS PERSONAL WHEN YOU NO LONGER HAVE A WAY TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BECAUSE A BOSS DECIDED IT WAS NOT PERSONAL!

    July 26, 2010 at 11:45 am |