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We continue to present our clients and friends with the latest information on workplace bullying. It is our opinion that employers must remain vigilant of new developments and take steps to create strategies to prevent lawsuits arising out of bullying behavior.

In August of 2020 Puerto Rico became the first U.S. Territory or State to establish a cause of action dealing with bullying in the workplace. The Puerto Rico Department of Labor issued its sample guidelines for employer compliance on February 3, 2021. Although this act applies only to Puerto Rico it provides an example of protocols for use by employers everywhere.

The guidelines, cited recently in the National Law Review, provide the following examples of conduct considered to be unlawful bullying.

  • Must be malicious
  • Must be unwanted
  • Must be repetitive and abusive
  • Must be arbitrary, unreasonable, or capricious
  • Can be verbal, written or physical
  • Must have occurred repeatedly by the employer, its agents, supervisors or employees
  • Must be oblivious to the legitimate interests of the company
  • Must violate the employee’s protected constitutional rights
  • Must create an intimidating, humiliating, hostile, or offensive work environment not suitable for a reasonable person to perform their duties or tasks in a normal way

The guidelines indicate an isolated event will not satisfy the definition of the statute. The guidelines do require an investigation, even for a one-time incident.

Finally, the guidelines have a dual purpose – to inform employees and to promote a workplace free of bullying.

The Puerto Rico directive is similar to the recent findings of cases in The Supreme Court of Ireland as well as the recent guidelines set forth by the Irish Government approximately two weeks ago. The European Parliament has issued guidance as well.

Although there are no current causes of action for workplace bullying in the 50 States, lawsuits are filed every day as a result of this behavior. The cases find their way into the courts in Workers’ Compensation, Title VII cases, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination actions.

Adelson McLean is at the forefront of employer training on this issue. We invite your questions and comments.

About Jeff Adelson

Jeff Adelson, General Counsel and Co-Managing Partner at Adelson McLean, has practiced in the field of Workers’ Compensation for almost 40 years. In addition, Mr. Adelson’s legal career includes experience in the areas of civil, family, and criminal law. He enjoys the field of employment and Worker’s Compensation. A strong believer in human rights, he abhors any type of intolerance.

Click here to read more about Jeff.


Sources:

Santos, Juan Felipe, and Sara E. Colon-Acevedo. “Puerto Rico Issues Guidelines Implementing Law Against Workplace Bullying.” The National Law Review, 5 Feb. 2021, www.natlawreview.com/article/puerto-rico-issues-guidelines-implementing-law-against-workplace-bullying.

Santos, Juan Felipe, et al. “Puerto Rico Becomes First Jurisdiction to Adopt Law Against Workplace Bullying.” Jackson Lewis, 7 Aug. 2020, www.jacksonlewis.com/publication/puerto-rico-becomes-first-jurisdiction-adopt-law-against-workplace-bullying.

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