Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Susan Harthill


Workers who are bullied at work suffer physically and mentally, and can even be driven to suicide. There ought to be a law against workplace bullying, and in some countries, there is. Despite a growing body of interdisciplinary work highlighting the prevalence and costs of workplace bullying in the United States, there are currently no U.S. state or federal laws expressly addressing the issue, despite the ground breaking work and legislative efforts of workplace bullying pioneers, David Yamada and Drs. Ruth and Gary Namie. The dismal fact for American workers is that the U.S. lags behind many other countries when it comes to addressing workplace bullying, both in terms of regulatory reform and self-governance initiatives. This is despite the fact that several studies in the U.S. have shown that workplace bullying causes ill health for targets. Workplace bullying has been identified as a major cause of much work-related stress, and stress in turn is linked to many physical and psychological symptoms. For this reason, the prevention of workplace bullying should be viewed as an occupational safety and health concern.

Several countries have already taken this important step, by recognizing workplace bullying as an occupational safety and health hazard, and initiating preventative and restorative efforts as a result of new regulatory agendas addressing the problem. This Article reviews some of these overseas developments and attempts to draw some preliminary lessons from abroad, with the goal of forwarding the dialogue on whether advocates in the U.S. should reframe the issue of workplace bullying as an occupational safety and health matter. This Article builds on the author's prior work, by combining a proposal for regulatory recognition of workplace bullying as an occupational safety and health concern, with a comparative law approach. This is achieved through review and analysis of the safety and health regulatory and self governance initiatives in other countries, in order to assess whether advocates in the U.S. could also reconceptualize the problem as an occupational safety and health matter.