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Is Cutting the Cheese Bullying?

In Australia, an engineer sued his former employer for bullying.  He alleged his former supervisor would come into his office and expel gas.  (And no, we are not making this up!) The employee referred to his supervisor as “Mr. Stinky” and sought $1.2 million in damages in his lawsuit.  The trial court threw out the employee’s claim, and he appealed.

To state the obvious, intentionally expelling gas in a subordinate’s office is gross and inappropriate.  But, these facts do serve as a good reminder for employers here in the U.S.  This case would likely have been thrown out here too.  Not all bad workplace conduct serves as a basis for a lawsuit.  There has to be a connection to a protected class such as age, sex, race, religion, national origin, etc. 

At present, very few jurisdictions have anti-bullying laws.  These, however, continue to be a part of the discussion of legislatures across the country.  More importantly, employers should get ahead of this new wave of legislation and demand the “be nice” standard at work, rather than the minimum the law requires.  Being nice to your workers and colleagues is not only the right thing to do, it eliminates a lot of workplace harassment and discrimination claims. 

There are also a number of good business reasons to adopt this standard.  Primarily, happy employees are productive employees.  Happy employees are also more inclined to stay, leading to lower turnover.  Turnover is costly and can severely impact the Company’s bottom line.  Thus, we challenge all employers to go beyond what the law requires and focus on creating a corporate culture that is a best place to work. 

Brody and Associates regularly provides training and counseling on maintaining a harassment free environment and on employment law issues in general. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.