NH Workplace Bullying – Many people are familiar with the term “hostile work environment.” A hostile work environment is one that consists of offensive conduct, so severe or pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of employment. In order for an employee to state a claim for “hostile work environment” as against his or her employer, the employee must allege facts showing that the conduct has been motivated, in some way, by an employee’s legally protected characteristic, e.g. his or her sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or, in New Hampshire, sexual orientation.
Is there any relief for the employee who is confronted with severe or pervasive offensive conduct in the workplace which does not have some connection to a legally protected quality of the employee? In other words, can an employee obtain any relief from his or her employer for permitting an “equal opportunity bully” to dominate and alter the work environment? Currently, the answer is “no,” under federal and New Hampshire law. However, in recent years efforts have been made to pass a bill protecting specifically state employees from generally “abusive work environments” including those unrelated to employees’ protected qualities.
Push for Healthy Workplace Legislation
Nationally, a push for “healthy workplace” legislation began in 2001. In 2014, a bill defining and prohibiting “abusive work environment(s)” for state employees passed both the New Hampshire House and Senate, but was vetoed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan.
This current legislative session there has been an effort to revive the “abusive work environment” applicable to state employees. The bill as currently drafted would require state agencies to develop policies for facilitating employees’ reporting of the abusive conduct in the workplace and agency investigation of these reports. The bill additionally contemplates an appeal process, to the state Department of Labor, for findings of “abusive work environment.”
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