The much “ballyhooed” controversy surrounding the Miami Dolphins’ offensive tackle Jonathan Martin’s departure following the allegedly incessant bullying and harassment by all-pro lineman Richie Incognito has reignited the discussion over the need for legislation to prevent bullying in the workplace. According to Martin, Incognito sent belittling, threatening and offensive text messages; left voicemail messages meant to intimidate and berate; and generally left Martin feeling threatened and depressed. Martin claimed that he could no longer withstand the treatment, and chose to leave the Dolphins on October 28.
Bullying in the workplace is certainly nothing new. What is relatively new is the emerging movement to put a stop to its potentially catastrophic consequences (such as the 2010 suicide of University of Virginia professor Kevin Morrissey, allegedly triggered by persistent bullying at work), and provide a means to punish such conduct. Legislative efforts are being made both in the criminal area and with respect to civil laws applying to employers. A model anti-bullying statute was drafted in 2001 and has been considered (in various configurations) by legislatures in 25 states, with bills still pending in several of those states. Relevant for Mr. Incognito and the Miami Dolphins, Florida’s version, HB 149, died in the legislature on May 3, 2013.
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