Florida Senate - 2015 SB 892 By Senator Bullard 39-01307-15 2015892__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to safe work environments; providing a 3 short title; providing legislative findings and 4 purposes; creating part III of chapter 448, F.S.; 5 providing definitions; providing that subjecting an 6 employee to an abusive work environment is an unlawful 7 employment practice; prohibiting retaliation against 8 an employee who has opposed any unlawful employment 9 practice or who has made a charge, testified, 10 assisted, or participated in any manner in an 11 investigation or proceeding concerning such a claim; 12 providing for vicarious liability for employers in 13 certain circumstances; providing a defense; providing 14 for liability for individual employees in certain 15 circumstances; providing a defense; providing 16 affirmative defenses; specifying relief available; 17 limiting an employer’s liability for emotional 18 distress and precluding punitive damages in certain 19 circumstances; specifying that provisions may only be 20 enforced by a private right of action; providing time 21 limitation on actions; providing that remedies 22 provided shall be in addition to and not in place of 23 other remedies provided in law; providing for 24 reimbursement of certain compensation; amending ss. 25 1002.42 and 1006.07, F.S.; requiring screening of 26 certain persons before entering instructional areas; 27 providing an effective date. 28 29 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 30 31 Section 1. Short title.—This act may be cited as the “Safe 32 Work Environment Act.” 33 Section 2. Findings and purpose.— 34 (1) FINDINGS.—The Legislature finds that: 35 (a) The social and economic well-being of the state is 36 dependent upon healthy and productive employees. 37 (b) Between 37 percent and 59 percent of employees directly 38 experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and 39 harassment, and this mistreatment is approximately four times 40 more prevalent than sexual harassment alone. 41 (c) Workplace bullying and harassment can inflict serious 42 harm upon targeted employees, including feelings of shame and 43 humiliation, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, 44 impaired immune systems, hypertension, increased risk of 45 cardiovascular disease, and symptoms consistent with post 46 traumatic stress disorder. 47 (d) Abusive work environments can have serious consequences 48 for employers, including reduced employee productivity and 49 morale, higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increases in 50 medical and workers’ compensation claims. 51 (e) If mistreated employees who have been subjected to 52 abusive treatment at work cannot establish that the behavior was 53 motivated by race, color, sex, national origin, or age, they are 54 unlikely to be protected by law against such mistreatment. 55 (f) Legal protection from abusive work environments should 56 not be limited to behavior grounded in protected class status as 57 provided for under employment discrimination statutes. 58 (g) Existing workers’ compensation plans and common-law 59 tort actions are inadequate to discourage this behavior or to 60 provide adequate relief to employees who have been harmed by 61 abusive work environments. 62 (2) PURPOSE.—It is the purpose of this act to: 63 (a) Provide legal relief for employees who have been harmed 64 psychologically, physically, or economically by being 65 deliberately subjected to abusive work environments. 66 (b) Provide legal incentive for employers to prevent and 67 respond to abusive mistreatment of employees at work. 68 Section 3. Part III of chapter 448, Florida Statutes, 69 consisting of ss. 448.30-448.37, is created to read: 70 PART III 71 ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS 72 448.30 Definitions.—As used in this part, the term: 73 (1) “Abusive conduct” means conduct, including acts or 74 omissions that a reasonable person would find hostile based on 75 the severity, nature, and frequency of the defendant’s conduct. 76 Abusive conduct may include, but is not limited to, repeated 77 verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, 78 and epithets; verbal or physical conduct of a threatening, 79 intimidating, or humiliating nature; the sabotage or undermining 80 of an employee’s work performance; or attempts to exploit an 81 employee’s known psychological or physical vulnerability. A 82 single act normally will not constitute abusive conduct, but an 83 especially severe and egregious act may be found to meet this 84 standard. 85 (2) “Abusive work environment” means a work environment 86 that exists when an employer, acting with malice, subjects an 87 employee to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible 88 harm to the employee. 89 (3) “Adverse employment action” includes, but is not 90 limited to, a termination, demotion, unfavorable reassignment, 91 failure to promote, disciplinary action, reduction in 92 compensation, or a constructive discharge. 93 (4) “Constructive discharge” exists where: 94 (a) An employee reasonably believed he or she was subjected 95 to abusive conduct; 96 (b) The employee resigned because of the abusive conduct; 97 and 98 (c) Before resigning, the employee brought to the 99 employer’s attention the abusive conduct and the employer failed 100 to take reasonable steps to correct the situation. 101 (5) “Employer” includes every employer, public or private. 102 (6) “Malice” means the desire to cause pain, injury, or 103 distress to another person. 104 (7) “Physical harm” means the material impairment of a 105 person’s physical health or bodily integrity, as established by 106 competent evidence. 107 (8) “Psychological harm” means the material impairment of a 108 person’s mental health, as established by competent evidence. 109 (9) “Tangible harm” means psychological harm or physical 110 harm. 111 448.31 Unlawful employment practices.— 112 (1) It is an unlawful employment practice under this part 113 to subject an employee to an abusive work environment. 114 (2) It is an unlawful employment practice under this part 115 to retaliate in any manner against an employee who has opposed 116 any unlawful employment practice under this part or who has made 117 a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in 118 an investigation or proceeding under this part, including, but 119 not limited to, internal complaints and proceedings, arbitration 120 and mediation proceedings, and legal actions. 121 448.32 Employer liability and defense.— 122 (1) An employer is vicariously liable for an unlawful 123 employment practice committed by an employee. 124 (2) If the alleged unlawful employment practice does not 125 include an adverse employment action, it is an affirmative 126 defense for an employer only that: 127 (a) The employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and 128 promptly corrected any actionable behavior. 129 (b) The complainant employee unreasonably failed to take 130 advantage of appropriate preventive or corrective opportunities 131 provided by the employer. 132 448.33 Employee liability and defense.— 133 (1) An employee may be individually liable for an unlawful 134 employment practice. 135 (2) It is an affirmative defense for an employee only that 136 the employee committed an unlawful employment practice at the 137 direction of the employer under threat of an adverse employment 138 action. 139 448.34 Affirmative defenses.—It is an affirmative defense 140 that: 141 (1) The complaint is based on an adverse employment action 142 reasonably made for poor performance, misconduct, or economic 143 necessity; 144 (2) The complaint is based on a reasonable performance 145 evaluation; or 146 (3) The complaint is based on a defendant’s reasonable 147 investigation about potentially illegal or unethical activity. 148 448.35 Relief.— 149 (1) GENERALLY.—If a defendant has been found to have 150 committed an unlawful employment practice under this part, the 151 court may enjoin the defendant from engaging in the unlawful 152 employment practice and may order any other relief that is 153 deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to, 154 reinstatement, removal of the offending party from the 155 complainant’s work environment, back pay, front pay, payment of 156 medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive 157 damages, and attorney fees. 158 (2) EMPLOYER LIABILITY.—If an employer has been found to 159 have committed an unlawful employment practice under this part 160 which did not culminate in an adverse employment action, the 161 employer’s liability for damages for emotional distress may not 162 exceed $25,000, and the employer is not subject to punitive 163 damages. This subsection does not apply to individually named 164 employee defendants. 165 448.36 Procedures.— 166 (1) PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.—This part may be enforced 167 solely by a private right of action. 168 (2) TIME LIMITATIONS.—Notwithstanding any other provision 169 of law, an action under this part must be commenced no later 170 than 1 year after the last act that constitutes the alleged 171 unlawful employment practice. 172 448.37 Effect on other legal relationships.—The remedies 173 provided in this part are in addition to any remedies provided 174 under any other law, and nothing in this part relieves a person 175 from any liability, duty, penalty, or punishment provided by any 176 other law, except that if an employee receives workers’ 177 compensation for medical costs for the same injury or illness 178 under this part and chapter 440, or compensation under this part 179 and chapter 440 in cash payments for the same period of time of 180 not working as a result of the compensable injury or illness or 181 the unlawful employment practice, all compensation received 182 under chapter 440 shall be reimbursed from compensation paid 183 under this part. 184 Section 4. Subsection (18) is added to section 1002.42, 185 Florida Statutes, to read: 186 1002.42 Private schools.— 187 (18) CAMPUS SECURITY.—Each school serving K-12 students 188 must provide for the screening with metal detectors of all 189 nonemployee persons entering areas in its school building or 190 campus where instructional activities for such students take 191 place. 192 Section 5. Subsection (7) is added to section 1006.07, 193 Florida Statutes, to read: 194 1006.07 District school board duties relating to student 195 discipline and school safety.—The district school board shall 196 provide for the proper accounting for all students, for the 197 attendance and control of students at school, and for proper 198 attention to health, safety, and other matters relating to the 199 welfare of students, including: 200 (7) CAMPUS SECURITY.—Screening with metal detectors all 201 nonemployee persons entering areas in each school building or 202 campus where instructional activities take place. 203 Section 6. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.