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Editorial: Workplace legislation earned veto

On Monday, Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed legislation intended to protect state employees from abusive work environments.

In her veto message, Hassan said HB 591 would open the door to unwarranted litigation, disrupt workplace supervision and reduce productivity within state agencies.

On all counts, the governor is correct. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at the legislation to see that it deserved the rejection it received.

The bill, in defining what would constitute “abusive conduct,” listed eight specific behaviors, including: “behavior or language that frightens, degrades, or criticizes the employee alone or in public”; “ignoring or showing hostility towards an employee seeking information or assistance”; and “creating unreasonable demands, for example workload, deadlines, or duties, that set a worker up for failure.”

With such broad and subjective criteria to establish “abusive conduct,” it’s easy to see where the governor would have concerns about complaints and litigation spiraling out of control.

For example, while one employee may find a supervisor’s brusque demeanor to be the sign of a no-nonsense, confident leader, another may consider that same tone to be combative and insensitive. And what does it mean to make “unreasonable” demands? Drafting a two-page memo may be an unreasonable demand for an employee who doesn’t like to write, but would such a request create an abusive work environment?

There is no population where perceptions are uniform, and that, ultimately, is the problem with HB 591. As Hassan wrote, the legislation “attempts to legislate politeness, manners and the interpersonal relationships of co-workers.” That is a fool’s errand, and an unfunded one at that.

The legislation provided no way to pay for the new system of addressing complaints, which would shift investigations from the Division of Personnel to the Department of Labor without providing an increase in staffing. Add to this the cost and time commitment of litigation, and you have legislation that has the potential to severely reduce productivity.

Hassan said she believed the legislation was well-intentioned, and we agree. No employee should be subjected to bullying in the workplace. To that end, the governor, State Employees Association, commissioners, lawmakers and other stakeholders must continue to review existing policies and look for ways to provide employees with the clearest possible course of action should they find themselves in an abusive work environment. But more important, the state must make sure supervisors understand their responsibilities to their employees, which should include training that emphasizes the importance of assessing morale and workplace atmosphere.

What the legislation must not do, however, is invite employees to choose litigation over common-sense conflict resolution. Clear, open communication between supervisor and employee has always been the best defense against an abusive work environment. Fear and threat of reprisal may create the illusion of mutual respect, but underneath the facade they are the seeds of toxicity in the workplace.

Legacy Comments3

MORE AWFUL REPORTING. dont the readers deserve to know who proposed this legislation and what the votes were in the legislature?

You're right BPR. I went to Her Majesty's webpage at but could find no internet Veto message either there of by her search feature [ ] and so for the HB591 at found it at: that this was an OTP (ought to pass) in the House, on March 20th [ HJ 27, PG.840-841 but which link is blocked! thus see: but no 591 there by the search, so where is it? of the recorded votes, or by voice vote only!? ] and with the Speaker appointing among others Rep. Andrew A White of District #13 for Lebanon to go to The Committee of Conference with the Senate, of White one of the four crony Democrats in the City of Lebanon on the Dr. Elaine Alice Brown (Mrs. Ed Brown) Dental Office Building case at the Feds set for a Fri., Aug. 15th auction @ 1:30 p.m. that like in the phrase of: What if they called a War and nobody came? Of what it they called an Auction and nobody bid? of THEN would the Tax Collector stop their RSA Ch. 643:1 "refrain" to THEN bill the occupier* by RSA Ch. 80:7-b? * = "Uncle Sam" instead of jacking up the property tax rates on others to pay in Grafton County. For the Brown house in Plainfield (in Sullivan County) some Democrat candidate woman is inquiring of WHY this tax billing by 80:7-b did not occur, and some Republican man candidate told me that they are not making this an issue in the Primary but taking that wait-n' see tactic to see IF nobody bids of only THEN to see to it that this government worker does her job in Plainfield of to send that Federal agent the property tax bill, because by RSA Ch. 123:2 only their land be exempt IF the Feds file their RSA Chapter 123:1 papers with the N.H. Secretary of State: Bill Gardner in Concord. Thus this attempt to come down on abusive taskmasters ought to backfire on public servants who REFUSE to RSA 93-B:1-5 be in "faithful performance" of to DO their job lest the County call in their $100,000 bond, instead of having the tax rate jacked up on everybody else! Notice at: that White is A.W.O.L. from his vote on this in the Committee of Conference. That deviator from the law has got to go! Do not re-elect him nor any of these others who allow these "other laws" of the U.S. Codes, and even worse of Federal policy to over-ride N.H. law! We N.H. Article 12 inhabitants deserve better than these Legislators who refuse to check and balance this Federal corruption! Corruptors who violate their own 28USC636(c)(1) in the Removal of our state CIVIL cases (#2005-C-033 in Grafton County Superior Court) against them in County Court to Concord where they are converted to a criminal case! and then they ignore the 6th Amendment by splitting of the trial (as preliminary hearings are a PART of the trial) over there in Portland, Maine!

According to: " King James Bible Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." To read the Matthew Henry and Gill commentaries later; ____

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