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Unnecessary workplace bullying bill increases costs, opponents say

Senate Bill 292 would make it an unlawful employment practice, under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, to create or maintain an abusive work environment.

On Monday, proponents before the Senate Judiciary Committee testified that abusive work environments are widespread, harmful and costly.

Lisa S. Stine of the National Association of Social Workers submitted testimony: “Up to 20 percent of the U.S. workforce will experience some sort of abuse during their careers. At any given time, at least 4 percent of the population is being targeted.”

The costs, she said, have a “financial impact across all Oregon enterprises, including for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations.”

Other testimony in support of the bill detailed personal accounts of difficult work environments and work experiences.

OSBA testified in opposition to the measure. Richard Donovan, OSBA legislative specialist, testified that passage of the bill “would cost school districts and community colleges money due to an anticipated increase in costs of insurance and liability coverage that every district must purchase.”

These potential costs, he said, would necessarily “be taken from money that would hopefully otherwise be going to the classroom.” Also, because much of the conduct prohibited by the bill is already illegal, Donovan testified that sufficient legal remedies exist. 

The members of the committee spent a good amount of time discussing what was or was not bullying in the workplace. Specific examples of reasonable expectations for conduct in workplaces, including private businesses and the military, were cited. Some members of the committee were openly favorable to the bill, while at least one member was opposed.

No further hearings are scheduled, and OSBA will monitor the bill’s progress.

- Richard Donovan
Legislative specialist