Tennessee’s Healthy Workplace Act became effective in 2015, and defines “abusive conduct” as:

“…acts or omissions that would cause a reasonable person, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the conduct, to believe that an employee was subject to an abusive work environment, such as: (A) Repeated verbal abuse in the workplace, including derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets; (B) Verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating, or humiliating nature in the workplace; or (C) the sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance in the workplace.”

Does the Healthy Workplace Act require Tennessee employers to prevent abusive conduct?

No, it does not. It required the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to create a model policy for employers to implement that would assist them in “recognizing and responding to abusive conduct” and prevent retaliation against employees who report abusive conduct. (My template healthy workplace policy was used in the creation of TACIR’s model policy.)

In addition, the Act only applies to Tennessee government agencies.

Phew! I don’t have to stop abusive conduct in my workplace, thank goodness!

You’re not really saying that, are you? If you are then you might want to read the thousands of books and millions of blog posts out there about how to motivate and engage your employees. I promise not one of them says a culture of fear is working in your favor.

The Healthy Workplace Act might not actually prohibit workplace bullying or abusive conduct, and you might not even be a government agency in Tennessee, but trust me when I say you have to end abusive conduct in your workplace. It costs your organization lots of money in turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism, poor quality work, ugly customer service, bad reputation, increased health insurance and workers’ comp costs due to stress, detachment from work, and more.

So what exactly does the Healthy Workplace Act mean for Tennessee’s government agencies?

The Healthy Workplace Act simply states that TACIR will create a model policy, and that if a government employer implements the policy then it is “immune from suit for any employee’s abusive conduct that results in negligent or intentional infliction of mental anguish.” Unfortunately this sounds like a “get out of jail free card.” And so far, TACIR has not been able to get their model policy voted into place. So currently government agencies do not have a model policy to follow, and thus haven’t implemented one.

Does that mean Tennessee government agencies should ignore abusive conduct in their workplace? Absolutely not. Visit our services page for more information on how we can help.

What does the Healthy Workplace Act mean for the rest of Tennessee’s employers?

It means the State of Tennessee cares about the way its employees are treated, and so should you. Visit our services page for more information on how we can help.

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