HR Management & Compliance

Puerto Rico may implement first far-reaching antibullying law

by Tammy Binford

Puerto Rico employers may soon be required to take steps to prevent workplace bullying. The territory’s legislature passedshutterstock_163151582 Senate Bill 501, an antibullying measure, on June 3. If the bill is signed by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Puerto Rico will become the first U.S. jurisdiction to pass a comprehensive law against workplace bullying.

The bill would cover public and private employers and would require them to implement policies to prevent and investigate bullying. The measure also would require employers to impose appropriate sanctions when necessary, according to a Google translation of the bill from Spanish to English.

In addition to preventing bullying by supervisors and employees, the bill would require employers to take steps to prevent bullying by nonemployees or employees of different companies (e.g., temporary agencies and contractors) if the employer knows about the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate action to stop it, according to the translation.

In addition to Puerto Rico, Tennessee has passed legislation aimed at preventing workplace bullying. The Tennessee law applies only to public-sector employers. The Healthy Workplace Campaign, an organization that pushes antibullying legislation, reports that on June 3, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that gives public-sector employers an incentive to adopt a model policy to prevent bullying. The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations is to create the policy by March 1, 2015.

The Healthy Workplace Campaign tracks states’ efforts to pass antibullying laws. It says Tennessee is the first state to enact a law incentivizing public-sector employers to adopt antibullying policies. Although 26 states and two territories have introduced healthy workplace bills, the measures have passed in just Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Dr. Gary Namie, the national director of the Healthy Workplace Campaign, said Tennessee is the “first state to acknowledge the dangers of abusive mistreatment of public employees—state agencies to municipalities—by taking the policy-driven approach adopted by a growing list of local ordinances throughout the country.”