Help Is on the Way: A Recent Case Sheds Light on Workplace Bullying

Source: Jordan F. Kaplan, Houston Law Review, Volume 47, Number 1: Frankel Lecture 2010

In the United States, although recognition of the problems associated with workplace bullying is increasing, legal responses consist of a patchwork of statutory and common law claims that are inadequate to cover many bullying incidents. Anti-bullying advocates, in an effort to fill the hole in U.S. employment law, have pushed for legislation, but with no success.

However, the recent case Raess v. Doescher, in becoming the first case to explicitly refer to workplace bullying, demonstrates the future development of anti-bullying law. While not advancing the statutory development of U.S. law, the case suggests the expansion of the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress to cover bullying behaviors. More importantly, Raess shows that civil assault, rarely considered in such a context, can be used to combat workplace bullying. In effect, Raess added to the arsenal of claims a bullying victim can bring while anti-bullying law continues to develop.

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