Editorial: Good Veto by Hassan - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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The Caledonian-Record | St. Johnsbury, VT


home : opinion : editorial February 5, 2016

7/30/2014 8:10:00 AM
Editorial: Good Veto by Hassan

On Monday New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed a law intended to guarantee a "positive work environment" for state employees. Hassan said H-591 is flawed for "poorly defined and unworkable provisions that will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in unwarranted workplace-related litigation."

She's absolutely right and passage of this terrible law would have left Granite State taxpayers to defend frivolous, union-backed lawsuits for the rest of eternity.

As it is, there are ample workplace laws already on the books. Among thousands of rules and regulations, federal and state departments of labor guarantee safeguards against harassment, abuse, discrimination and dangerous working conditions. There are also laws on wage floors and hour ceilings; workplace safety and health; workers compensation; benefit security; union protection; employee protection; wage garnishment protection; family and medical leave guarantees; and ample avenues for redress.

As Hassan wrote in her veto message, H-591 "attempts to legislate politeness, manners and the interpersonal relationships of co-workers." It wouldn't have accomplished any of those things, of course, but it would have done the following things noted by Hassan in her veto message:

An individual may claim workplace abuse if an employee believes he or she has an "unreasonable" workload, even if it is a workload similar to their co-workers.

An individual may claim workplace abuse if his or her supervisor or co-worker uses language that "criticizes" the employee in public -- even if the criticism is constructive, appropriate and done within the confines of the workplace.

An individual may claim workplace abuse if he or she feels his or her co-workers are not answering emails in a timely manner, and therefore "ignoring" a request for information or assistance. Given the workloads of employees, they are likely to have very different definitions of what amounts to a reasonable amount of time to respond to a non-urgent request.

An individual may claim workplace abuse if a supervisor gives what the employee feels is "unreasonable criticism" outside of the typical evaluation process.Under the proposed legislation if an employee, for example, fills out the same form wrong every day, or returns late from a break every day, a supervisor who offers corrective guidance outside an annual review could be accused of bullying.

An individual may claim workplace abuse if a co-worker or a supervisor shows "constant and harsh displays of disrespect," even though the legislation offers no guidance of what it means by "constant" or "harsh" or "disrespect." For example, under this legislation, an employee would be able to claim abuse if a co-worker regularly failed to say hello in the morning.

Hassan concludes "This legislation... would create an expensive and likely litigious system; would incite conflicts between co-workers; and would make it difficult for supervisors to reasonably and fairly manage employees, making state government less efficient and effective."

These outcomes are simply unacceptable toward a functional workplace. We applaud Hassan for standing up to the public employees' union and killing this chilling bill.

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