On December 16, 2013, the Senate introduced another bill (S3115), the “Healthy Workplace Act,” seeking to prevent workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment. The bill would prohibit any conduct in the workplace that a reasonable person would find hostile, including derogatory remarks, humiliation, insults, conduct undermining an employee’s work performance, etc. If passed, it would become an unlawful employment practice for an employer to subject or permit an employee to be subjected to an abusive work environment, or to retaliate against an employee for asserting protections under the act. The legislation would provide a right to a civil cause of action affording full tort damages, equitable relief, attorneys’ fees and costs, and in some circumstances, punitive damages. However, an employer would be able to assert an affirmative defense to certain co-worker abuse if the employer promulgated an effective policy to prohibit and deter the abusive conduct and the employee failed to take advantage of appropriate preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Prior versions of this bill were unsuccessfully introduced in 2008 and 2012.
Note: This article was published in the January 2014 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.