Thursday, January 22, 2009

H.B. 224: Rep. Sandstrom wants lawsuits for swearing? (Seriously)

H.B. 224, filed by Rep. Steve Sandstrom (R-Orem), is called "The Health Care Provider Abusive Work Environment Prohibition Act," and suffice it to say that Sandstrom might be an honored guest at the next Trial Lawyers convention.

Under Sandstrom's bill, health care employees could sue employers (including governmental entities), co-workers, and independent contractors for workplace "abuse" that includes the use of "epithets," undermining of an employee's performance, etc., if a reasonable person would find it "intimidating" or "humiliating." Gee, no one has ever accused a co-worker of those things before.

The bill says the abuse must be with malice, but it allows a court to infer malice in all sorts of circumstances, such as alleged expressions of hostility, alleged inconsistency with legitimate business interests, alleged failure to stop the conduct upon request, etc. In other words, the bill would make it virtually impossible for an employer to avoid a trial, because it would be easy for the employee to raise a jury question by simply filing an affidavit saying that one of these things happened.

If the employee wins, a court can award back pay, front pay, punitive damages, emotional distress, attorney fees, and a singing telegram of apology. Well, maybe not the last one, but there is no cap on emotional distress or punitive damages for claims against co-workers or third parties.

What the heck? This would be the most pro-lawsuit statute on the books. Even people who are (alleged) victims of racial or religious discrimination don't have it this good. So of course, inquiring minds want to know: Who among Sandstrom's family or friends is a health care worker who doesn't like her boss?


Adam said...

I am sorry to say that is my Rep.

Doug and Sara said...

Does anyone know the history on this bill? Why is Sandstrom targting the health care industry?

Todd said...

This isn't just about swearing. Emotional abuse in the workplace is a huge ordeal. I hope you never have to suffer through a physical illness created and magnified by the stress put upon you by abusive and bullying supervisors.

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