We have all had conversations or interactions that left us feeling uneasy or even worse, humiliated. For some, these moments have happened during a chance encounter with a stranger. But for others, these moments happen on a daily basis and cannot be avoided. They happen at work.

Workplace bullying has now become a topic of discussion in the media and in the legislatures. In 2015, California enacted the Healthy Workplace Bill to require specific training for the “prevention of abusive conduct” in the workplace.

California is not alone. A number of other states have passed legislation modeled after the Heathy Workplace Bill. The focus of this type of legislature is to encourage employers to provide training in the workplace to prevent workplace bullying.

What is Workplace Bullying Anyway?

Under California law, abusive conduct (i.e. bullying) is “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interest.” This type of behavior can be verbal or physical and is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. It can also include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets. The statute even goes on to note that it includes “undermining of a person’s work performance.”

Whether or not conduct is considered “abusive” under the Healthy Workplace Bill is analyzed under the reasonable person standard: Would a reasonable person consider the conduct abusive or offensive?

The Healthy Workplace Bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide training to their supervisory employees about the prevention of abusive conduct. One incident of abusive conduct is not enough to violate this rule, unless it is especially severe or egregious.

Who is targeted the most and why?

Findings from the Workplace Bullying Institute show that employees most often targeted by workplace bullying are independent and usually the most skilled or experienced person in the group. The bully may feel intimidated by the target’s abilities and relationships with others and try to control the target. Additional studies show that women and minorities are more at risk for workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying can take its toll. The reality is that workplace bullying causes serious mental and physical problems for some of its victims. Fortunately, with movements like #MeToo, victims are being given support to step forward so that we can ensure that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.


CAL. GOV. CODE §12950.1 (h)(2) (Deering 2017).

Healthy Workplace Bill, WORKPLACE BULLYING INST.

Joseph Deng & Angela McIsaac, Taking a Crack at Calif.’s Workplace Anti-Bullying Law, LAW360 (Feb. 19, 2015, 12:05PM EST)

Sally Kane, Who is a Workplace Bully’s Target?, THE BALANCE (Oct. 12, 2017)


Women, Minorities More Likely to Report Bullying in the Workplace, Georgia State Study Shows, GEORGIA STATE UNIV. (April 4, 2017)