Abusive Work Environments Cause of Action Legislation Introduced

Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) has introduced legislation (AB 116) that would create a new cause of action outside of worker’s compensation for abusive work environments.

The bill provides an exception to the exclusive remedy of worker’s compensation when employees allege they have been subjected to an abusive work environment. Employees alleging injury from an abusive work environment may file an action in circuit court. Circuit courts may award prevailing employees relief from the employer including medical expenses, back pay, front pay, compensation for pain and suffering, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Under the bill, “abusive conduct” means “conduct, including acts or omissions, by an employer or employee, that a reasonable person would find to be abusive based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the conduct.” “Abusive work environment” means “a work environment in which an employer or one or more of its employees, acting with intent to cause pain or distress to an employee, subjects that employee to abusive conduct that causes physical harm or psychological harm to that employee.”

AB 116 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Labor & Integrated Employment. In addition to Pope, the bill has 18 Democratic cosponsors – 13 assembly representatives and five senators.