Workplace bullying bill introduced in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has joined the race to become the first state in the union to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, legislation that provides targets of severe workplace bullying with a legal cause of action.

State Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Joan Menard (D-1st Bristol & Plymouth) has filed the Healthy Workplace Bill, titled “An Act addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, without regard to protected class status,” and designated as Senate Bill No. 699. 

In a nutshell, the bill creates a legal claim for bullying targets who can establish that they were subjected to malicious, health-harming behavior.  It also provides defenses for employers who act preventively and responsively with regard to bullying and includes provisions to discourage frivolous claims.

The Massachusetts 2009/10 session bills have just been posted to the Legislature’s website.  A pdf file containing Senate No. 699 can be downloaded from: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st00/st00699.htm.

SEIU/NAGE Local 282 president Gregory Sorozan and lobbyist Ray McGrath played key roles in bringing this bill to the attention of the Legislature.

I drafted the first version of the Healthy Workplace Bill some seven years ago.  California was the first state to consider it in 2003, and since then variations have been filed in a dozen more states.  For an update on advocacy campaigns around the nation, go to:  http://healthyworkplacebill.org/.

Jan. 2010 update: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/healthy-workplace-bill-slated-for-jan-27-hearing-in-massachusetts/

19 responses

  1. This bill is necessary to prevent irresponsible acts among management and co-workers. We hope this bill can help all people come to work in peace and harmony, and be totally forcused on work.We can not allow distraction and possibly violance occuring because of ignorance on the part of the employers failing to manage a dangerous situation.

  2. I am working with a group in Vancouver, British Columbia to develop a framework for legislation here. As a speaker, author and consultant working to promote respectful workplaces I know that legislation will provide the impetus to get the employer community aware of the costs of this destructive behaviour. While human rights legislation has not eliminated discrimination or harassment, it has empowered victims and provided them with a voice and means of redress. Victims of bullying are currently without that voice and they desperatly need one.

  3. As we walked the halls of the State Capitol in Sacramento, California for our Citizen Lobby Day today, we proudly distributed the news of Masschusetts Healthy Workplace Bill. Some legislative aids got it, understanding the need to apply the “Golden Rule” in the workplace, while others obviously have no idea what the severity of this phenomenon is doing to people’s lives. We thank you for promoting this bill and look forward to seeing it passed into law. The only question remaining is, which state will be the progressive enough to pass it first? Good luck Massachusetts! Michelle Smith

    • if you could feel the Emotion that are filling my body at this moment,i have been looking for some one who realize this is truly an issue,i’ve been subjected to more humiliation in the past 2 + years,simply because i don’t fit the look.
      i’m currently in theray for emotional and mental problems,steeming from workplace Bullying,been prescribed medication to help me control panic attacks and cope with depression,i have depleted my circle of friends,fearing they will notice the change in the way i have become,please ,please Help

  4. Cindy, Erica, and Michelle, thank you for your good comments to this post. I appreciate all the work you are doing to advance basic human dignity in the workplace. David

  5. One aspect of workplace bullying that seems to keep falling through the cracks is the fact that other types of workplace ills are often hidden behind it. Since workplace bullying is yet to be clearly defined in federal law the “gray area” of when and where it happens is still very much subjective.

    According to some researchers the following are most common tactics used by bullies in the workplace.

    * falsely accusing the target(s) of workplace mistakes

    * the silent treatment

    * yell at the target(s) with the intent to intimidate

    * make insults based on race, gender, disability, national origin,etc.

    * characterize the target as incompetent or unintelligent

    * trivialize the target(s) work product

    * demean the target(s) in front of others

    The bullies in mine and other workplaces have displayed all of these tactics and more! Unfortunately, so have the sexual harassers, gender, race, age and disability discriminators. Congress is yet to act officially in enacting laws to specifically define and protect the victims of bullying. Therefore some employers may feel more comfortable about defending against an accusation of bullying versus say age discrimination which is federally protected.

  6. Thanks to the work of David Yamada, Ruth and Gary Namie, Sarah Tracey and many others the Healthy Workplace bill may finally pass. Wouldn’t it be great for Massachusetts to be the first one! I will be presenting a session on workplace bullying to elementary principals in early April (New Orleans) in an effort raise awareness in environments where student-to-student bullying is slowly being eradicated but workplace bullying is unrecognized and/or ignored. Always so interesting. Kathleen

    • Kathleen, best of luck with your presentation in April. You are doing exactly the kind of outreach that educates people about these behaviors, their impact, and what to do about them. I’m delighted to hear about this. David

  7. Walter Olson of the anti-regulatory Manhattan Institute takes a predictably cheap shot at both the Healthy Workplace Bill and the SEIU in his blog entry, simply asking, “What do you want to bet the bill doesn’t cover bullying by SEIU itself?” and linking to Minding the Workplace: http://www.pointoflaw.com/archives/2009/04/seiu-pushes-wor.php.

    Alas, his blog leaves no opportunity to leave comments, so I’ll reply here: Actually, if, say, a manager was being bullied by union members, that manager might have a claim against those individuals under the Healthy Workplace Bill. And while it’s true that the union itself would not be a defendant under the HWB, if the union was purposefully orchestrating the bullying, the manager might also have a claim directly against the union for intentional interference with contractual relations — something that I’m sure Olson knows. So, when held up against the light of day, Olson’s snarky post doesn’t hold up.

    There are legitimate concerns about enacting workplace bullying laws that are worthy of discussion. Unfortunately, Olson’s approach adds little to the debate.

  8. Pingback: Update on Massachusetts workplace bullying legislation « Minding the Workplace

  9. This is a stupid bill and it will just make Massachusetts an even less desirable (if possible) place to live. People need to suck it up; life is tough. If you can’t deal with difficult people, go somewhere else. Basically you are giving every malcontent or weakling a weapon to hold over an employer’s head.

    The truth is that many people are incompetent, and there is nothing wrong in telling them this to their face. The same with belittling their work — if it sucks they should know. People think they have some right to be terrible employees and face no criticism. That is counter productive. If someone puts forward a stupid idea, I will tell him it is stupid, and I would hope he would do the same for me.

  10. Pingback: Healthy Workplace Bill slated for Jan 27 hearing in Massachusetts « Minding the Workplace

  11. This bill is appropriate in any state and I am excited to see that the state of Mass is working to place the healthy workplace bill into legislation. One cannot understand the importance of such a bill unless they have been the victim of bullying either by a co-worker or by senior level management. It is cleary very easy to say suck it up and that’s life, however know one deserves to be bullied in their work place.

    I speak from experience. Previously working for The University of Mass-Boston, I was continuously bullied by a Vice Chancellor and an Associate Director of the department, which finally resulted in me leaving a job that I had great passion for and loved.

    Sad to say that those same individuals are still in their respective positions and are allowed to get away with their disrespectful ways.

    I understand that everyone does not experience bullying in the workplace so you may not be able to relate, but for one moment live in the shoes of those that have been bullied!

    • SRP
      you could not have said it better,it’s not that everybody experience this type of treatment,if they did,it would just be the norm.

      there are a group of people that make other people Job/life a living HELL,Just because of the color of their skin,religion,there ability to speak up for themselves or simply because they refuse to kiss A
      if you have noy experience this,then you would not understand.
      Thanks SRP

  12. Pingback: Massachusetts workplace bullying legislation: Looking ahead « Minding the Workplace

  13. Pingback: Labor Day 2010: Is the Healthy Workplace Bill liberal, moderate, or conservative legislation? « Minding the Workplace

  14. Thank you for this information. I now realize that I have been bullied at work for years and would like to know what legal steps to take in order to protect myself and fight back. Also I want monetary compensation for emotional and psychological damages done. My mailing address is [deleted]

    • Angela, I deleted your identifying information from your comment, which is accessible to other readers. However, I thought my response would be helpful to others as well.

      Although I am not in a position to provide individual coaching and advice, I have pulled together information that may be of assistance to you and others. Please go here on my blog.

  15. I was recently a victun of workplace bullying then fired. this happen of course doing my 90 day probation period. of course the bully (my supervisor and her click) could not let me stay there pass then as a raise was due then. i was fired on the lamest exxcuse ever. my question is how can i get the healty workplace bill passed in new orleans or least make people aware that workplace bullying is a very real situation.

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