Late last month, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D) vetoed legislation intended to curb workplace bullying in state government offices. One cannot be sure of the exact motivation behind Governor Hassan’s veto, but it is interesting to see that when the effect of legislation will be in your own backyard, i.e., the proposed legislation only applied to state government agencies, then the desire to have bullying addressed by legislative action decreases. Indeed, Hassan is quoted as saying that she believed the bill “contains a number of poorly defined and unworkable provisions that will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in unwarranted workplace-related litigation.” She added that the bill was “an attempt to legislate politeness”.
If passed, the bill would have required supervisors to create a formal system for employees to confidentially report and address workplace abuse, and to communicate the policy in writing to employees, among other provisions. Of course, most well-advised private employers already have policies governing workplace etiquette and train supervisors and others not to tolerate what might be considered bullying or abuse of workers.
Governor Hassan went on to state, “Ultimately, it would lead us in a direction toward extending these onerous and unnecessary directives to our private sector business community, making our state an undesirable destination for expansion and economic development.” Supposedly, law markers are reported as intending to try to override the veto with a two-thirds vote in each of the state chambers.
While there are many proponents of legislative action to protect employees against so-called workplace bullying, to date Tennessee is the only state to enact general workplace anti-bullying legislation. Maybe because it is hard to find any employer who believes it is good for its business to tolerate workplace bullying or other forms of abusive conduct toward employees, whether by supervisors or co-workers.