Minneapolis employment law attorney Greg Stenmoe discusses the proposed legislation to work place bullying in Minnesota.
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Does Minnesota have anti-bullying laws that apply to the workplace? Currently no, but there have been several attempts in recent years as early as last year to introduce legislation that would prohibit bullying in the workplace. The difficulty is defining what bullying is and no one has come up with a definition that everyone can agree on. But I think everyone agrees that bullying is bad and it should be prohibited in the workplace. It’s just figuring out a way to do it.
But the interesting thing is that right now employers do have tools and employees do have methods to deal with bullies in the workplace. If a bully is targeting women, targeting minorities, people with disabilities, the discrimination laws already prohibit that kind of behavior. And if you have what sometimes we call an equal opportunity harasser or bully, somebody who just does it to everybody, there are cases out there where essentially bullies have been sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
There was an example of a surgeon, who was just an absolute jerk. He would yell and scream at everybody about everything and there was a situation where he went after a nursing assistant. His, the veins were popping out of his neck and he was yelling and screaming and he got very close to this person, you know, face to face, nose to nose and was yelling at them. Never touched them. And the court let the case go to trial on the basis that this was a form of intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery. So there are ways that you can deal with bullies in the workplace, even under the current legislative scheme.