On workplace bullying: Jonathan Martin gets a new job, an op-ed from Connecticut, and progress in Massachusetts

Some items of note in the realm of workplace bullying:

Jonathan Martin traded to San Francisco 49ers

On occasion, workplace bullying stories have a good ending, or at least a hopeful one. Jonathan Martin, the NFL player whose claims of severe bullying and abuse as a member of the Miami Dolphins were validated by a league investigation, recently was traded to the San Francisco 49ers and has received a warm welcome. As John Breech reports for CBS Sports:

“I can tell already that I’m going to get along just great with those guys,” Martin said of his new teammates during a conference call on Thursday. “I’ve felt a warm welcome from the entire 49ers community, fan base, coaching staff, everybody. I’m just looking forward to the future and getting back to playing football.”

Connecticut Mirror op-ed on workplace bullying

Katherine Hermes, a history professor and long-time advocate for the Healthy Workplace Bill, penned a very compelling op-ed on workplace bullying in the Connecticut Mirror, citing the suicide of a dear friend that was associated with being severely bullied at work:

There are problems great and small, global and local. But when you are the target of a bully, the problems are so personal and isolating that a wider world ceases to exist. My friend Marlene was a conservationist, a birdwatcher, a lover of literature and film, an enthusiastic cook, a traveler, a scientist—but once the bully had hold of her, a suicide.

Her death catapulted me into a movement, founded by the Workplace Bullying Institute, to try to stop workplace bullying. I discovered that workplace abuse was not illegal unless the campaign of destruction was directly related to the protected status of the person being bullied. If the bully did not harass the target because of race, religion, sex, age, and so forth, it was legal conduct.

Healthy Workplace Bill makes progress in Massachusetts

The Healthy Workplace Bill, introduced in Massachusetts as House No. 1766, has been favorably reported out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

There’s still a long way to go — the bill must be passed by both the state House and Senate — but getting a favorable report out of committee is an important and necessary step. To become active in the MA Healthy Workplace Advocates, go to the website and sign up for alerts and/or join the group’s Facebook page.

Pass ‘em on: Two short videos about workplace bullying and the Healthy Workplace Bill

In case you missed them: If you’re looking for fast, accurate, visual explanations of workplace bullying and the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, here they are. Please share them with others to spread the word about workplace bullying and how we can address it.

About workplace bullying

The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence produced this three-minute animated video about workplace bullying:

I worked closely with the APA in developing the script for the video, and I’m delighted with the final result.

About the Healthy Workplace Bill

Deb Falzoi of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates produced this six-minute video about the Healthy Workplace Bill:

Deb did a fantastic job of boiling down the need for this legislation and the substance of the bill itself into readily understandable basics.

How to support the Healthy Workplace Bill

We’re moving closer to the day when the Healthy Workplace Bill will become law in states across the nation. Getting that first state to adopt it is the toughest hurdle, but once the dam is broken, many others will follow.

If you want to see workplace anti-bullying legislation enacted in your state, here’s by far the most effective route to take:

Contact your state legislators

Contact your state legislators

Contact your state legislators

Visit them, mail them, call them, or e-mail them. But do press your case. Ask them to sponsor or co-sponsor the Healthy Workplace Bill. Ask them to exercise their influence to move the HWB through the thicket of the legislative process. Thank them when they do so.

Some points to consider:

1. It’s most essential that you contact your own legislators. Legislators listen closely to their constituents, i.e., voters in their district.

2. Share your story. Let them know, in personal terms and in your own words, that workplace bullying is about abusive, hurtful mistreatment at work.

3. If your legislator declines to support the HWB, don’t be angry or disrespectful, but try again on another occasion.

Other measures

Here are some other useful things you can do:

1. If you are a member of an advocacy or professional organization that endorses legislation, ask that group to formally support the HWB.

2. Post supportive online comments to news articles discussing the Healthy Workplace Bill and workplace bullying in general.

3. Write letters to the editor of your local paper expressing support for the Healthy Workplace Bill.

Notice what I didn’t mention: “Liking” or commenting on a Facebook post about workplace bullying is fine, but it doesn’t substitute for direct advocacy. Signing an online petition may create a sense of solidarity, but it pales in effectiveness next to personal contact with your legislators.

Bottom line

I think you get the message. It’s all about persuading those in a position to support and vote on the Healthy Workplace Bill.

Be assured that powerful interests that oppose workplace bullying legislation are quietly spreading their message in state capitols across the country. They have money and power behind them, and they want to ensure that employers will not face liability for this form of abuse.

It’s up to us to say that we, as a society, must do better than that.

***

Resources

National website for the Healthy Workplace Bill campaign – Check here to see if your state is actively considering the HWB, and to become part of a network of grassroots activists supporting it.

Massachusetts website for the Healthy Workplace Bill campaign – The HWB has been introduced in the current, 2013-14 session as House No. 1766. At this website you can sign up for updates about what you can do to support it.

Six-minute video explaining the need for the Healthy Workplace Bill – A short, snappy, informative video prepared by Deb Falzoi of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates.

WGBH’s “Greater Boston” on workplace bullying and the Healthy Workplace Bill

On Tuesday I was a guest on WGBH’s “Greater Boston” nightly news program, talking about workplace bullying and the Healthy Workplace Bill. I joined program host Emily Rooney, reporter Adam Reilly, and developmental psychologist and consultant Sharon O’Connor for the studio discussion, complemented by interview footage featuring organizational consultant Paula Parnagian, workplace bullying target Shelton Prince, and small business policy advocate Bill Vernon.

It’s about a 12-minute segment.

Radio day: WBUR segment on workplace bullying

WBUR's graphic for this story

WBUR’s graphic for the online story

This afternoon I was a guest on WBUR’s Radio Boston program, talking about the Healthy Workplace Bill and workplace bullying in general. You can listen to the 24-minute program here. You also can go online to add your comments.

I was interviewed at WBUR’s studios by program hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks. Management-side employment lawyer Andrew Botti joined us by phone to offer a contrary viewpoint about the need for workplace bullying legislation.

WBUR is Boston’s NPR news station. Many thanks to the producers and program hosts for their hospitality to this first-time on air guest.

Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill garners support at State House hearing

Photo: Deb Falzoi, MA Healthy Workplace Advocates

Photo: Deb Falzoi, MA Healthy Workplace Advocates

In recent years, I’ve participated in four Massachusetts legislative hearings on workplace anti-bullying legislation, the last three times on behalf of the Healthy Workplace Bill. If yesterday’s hearing before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development is any indication, support for the Healthy Workplace Bill in the Bay State is reaching a tipping point.

The Healthy Workplace Bill (House No. 1766 in the current MA session) was among the bills heard by the committee on Tuesday, and the growing support was evident. Here’s a quick summary of who supported the bill:

  • The Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates panel testifying in support included co-coordinator Greg Sorozan (President of NAGE Local 282), a former bullying target, and me.
  • Lead sponsors Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Katherine Clark and co-sponsor Rep. Frank Smizik were among the legislators who testified in support of the HWB.
  • Approximately 12 citizens shared individual stories of experiencing bullying at work and why passage of the HWB is necessary to safeguard workers.
  • Many others who appeared before the Committee to endorse other legislation added remarks supporting the HWB.

The only voiced opposition came from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a powerful corporate trade association. In addition, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette ran an editorial opposing the HWB, claiming that existing laws are more than adequate to address bullying-type behaviors.

I’m hardly a disinterested party, but I was struck by how frequently this bill was mentioned during the hearing. Ten years ago, such an event simply was not imaginable. Yesterday, however, workplace bullying was among the dominant topics at a legislative hearing in which many worthy bills were being considered.

***

Thanks to Deb Falzoi, Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates, for some of the information above.

Working Notes: A busy Friday discussing workers and workplaces

 
L to R: DY, Rep. Kay Khan, Rep. Ellen Story

L to R: DY, Rep. Kay Khan, Rep. Ellen Story

Yesterday served as a welcomed reminder that healthy dialogue can play an important role toward advancing the interests of workers and workplaces. I was fortunate to participate in two excellent events, and I’d like to share a bit about each.

MARN Legislative Forum

I spent the morning at the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses 2013 Health Policy Legislative Forum, held in the Great Hall of the State House. There I joined Representatives Ellen Story (a lead sponsor of the HWB, House Bill No. 1766) and Kay Khan (a HWB co-sponsor and psychiatric nurse) for presentations and Q&A about workplace bullying in healthcare and the importance of supporting anti-bullying legislation. MARN is one of the organizational endorsers of the HWB.

The discussion was both practical and policy oriented. We talked about the challenges of dealing with bullying behaviors in the healthcare workplace, as well as the role that associations like MARN can play in advancing the Healthy Workplace Bill.

It’s an honor to present with two elected officials who truly “get it” when it comes to how public policy can promote human dignity in the workplace. The three of us were pleased to be there, as the photo above (grabbed shamelessly from Rep. Story’s Facebook page) indicates!

Northeastern University Conference, “Employed or Just Working?”

For the afternoon, I hopped on the subway to a conference sponsored by the Northeastern University Law Journal, Employed or Just Working? Rethinking Employment Relationships in the Global Economy, which focused on the changing definitions of employee status and their impact on workers and organizations.

I gave a talk on the “intern economy” and detailed the emerging legal and social movement against the widespread practice of unpaid interns, explaining how this practice excludes individuals who cannot afford to work for free and likely violates minimum wage laws. I will be submitting an article on this topic to the journal later this year, updating my 2002 Connecticut Law Review article on the legal rights of interns. (You may download the 2002 piece without charge, here.)

Several panels focused on the common practice of employers misclassifying workers as independent contractors that, in turn, allow them to avoid paying wages, overtime, and benefits. Some of these practices are egregious, as lawyers who litigate these claims explained to us. We also heard from attorneys representing employers, and they provided an important perspective on the challenges of engaging in good-faith compliance efforts with laws that define “employee” in significantly different ways.

A compelling panel featured advocates and scholars who are examining the difficulties confronting domestic workers such as home health care attendants who are trying to obtain decent wages and benefits. These issues aren’t going away as our population ages and the demand for affordable in-home care increases.

Thanks and kudos

Thank you to both MARN and Northeastern for these opportunities to share information and ideas and to engage in discussions with people who care about the quality of our work lives, and congratulations for putting on very successful events involving multiple speakers. I hope that others who attended and participated benefited as much as I did.

Healthy Workplace Bill: March 2013 update

hwb.ma

It’s a steady, hard trudge, but the advocacy work toward enacting the Healthy Workplace Bill continues to move forward:

Here in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill now has an official bill number for the 2013-14 session of the Legislature, House Bill No. 1766.  Here’s a link to the complete bill as filed by our lead sponsors, Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Katherine Clark, joined by 37 co-sponsors.

The bill once again has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development.

Info and testimony packet

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates submitted a packet of information and written testimony to the staffs of our lead sponsors so that they can share it with supporters and others who want to understand the need for the legislation.

The packet includes a briefing paper that I prepared, a short fact sheet, and — most importantly — eight personal statements from individuals who have experienced severe workplace bullying. (Thank you to Greg Sorozan, Massachusetts Co-Coordinator, for assembling and editing the packet.)

To get involved

To get involved, go to the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates website, where you can sign up for updates and also link to our active Facebook page. Co-Coordinator Deb Falzoi can help you get involved in our public education and advocacy work.

Bills filed in eight states

So far, variations of the HWB have been introduced in eight states during the 2013-14 sessions of state legislatures: Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, West Virginia, Florida, and New Mexico.

New York leading the way!

Our friends in New York have lined up a whopping 74 sponsors and co-sponsors in the state legislature, the result of years of hard work and determination.

Kudos to Mike Schlicht and Tom Witt, our co-coordinators there, for their remarkable work to date, with more good stuff to come.

To get involved

For information about the national campaign to enact the HWB, go to the website here. There you’ll find links to sign up with state-level grassroots Healthy Workplace Advocates groups.

Other news items

Management lawyer suggests HWB may be “inevitable likelihood”

Michael Fox, an accomplished law partner at the corporate firm of Ogletree Deakins in Texas and author of a popular blog for management-side employment lawyers, suggests that he’s reconciling himself to the “inevitable likelihood” that workplace bullying laws will be enacted.

Michael and I have had a respectful difference of opinion about the need for such laws, so his graciously worded observation is noteworthy. His short blog post is here.

Insurance Journal: Should EPLI policies cover workplace bullying?

In a January piece for the Insurance Journal on employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) policies for small companies, Amy O’Connor cites “new trends” such as workplace bullying as a reason for insurance agents to work closely with clients and carriers.

Seemingly casual references like this are hard evidence — leading indicators, if you will — that employee relations stakeholders are taking notice of the push to enact workplace bullying laws.

Healthy Workplace Bill is gaining momentum in Massachusetts

BULLYINGLOGOwithURL

In the new 2013-14 session of the Massachusetts legislature, the Healthy Workplace Bill (currently House Docket No. 517; awaiting assignment of a bill number) is roaring out of the blocks, with two lead sponsors and 37 co-sponsors signed on as supporters.

The Healthy Workplace Bill is legislation I authored that provides a legal claim for targets of severe workplace bullying and creates liability-reducing incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying at work.

Here’s the list of sponsors, courtesy of Deb Falzoi (Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates) and House staff. The lead sponsors are Representative Ellen Story and Senator Katherine Clark, followed by co-sponsors in alphabetical order:

Representative Ellen Story (lead sponsor, D-Amherst)
Senator Katherine Clark (lead sponsor, D-Melrose)
Rep. Denise Andrews (D-Orange)
Rep. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow)
Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton)
Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose)
Rep. Christine Canavan (D-Brockton)
Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams)
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston)
Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (D-Springfield)
Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)
Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton)
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster)
Rep. John Fresolo (D-Worcester)
Rep. Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough)
Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset)
Rep. Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown)
Rep. Carlos Henriquez (D-Dorchester)
Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston)
Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Brighton)
Rep. Lou Kafka (D-Stoughton)
Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy)
Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton)
Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton)
Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield)
Rep. John Lawn (D-Watertown)
Rep. John Mahoney (D-Worcester)
Rep. Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable)
Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn)
Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham)
Rep. James O’Day (D-West Boylston)
Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville)
Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley)
Rep. Carl Sciortino, Jr. (D-Medford)
Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline)
Rep. Theodore Speliotis (D-Danvers)
Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield)
Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke)
Sen. James Welch (D-West Springfield)

1 to 13 to 39

This is the third Massachusetts legislative session in which the HWB has been filed.

2009-10 session — The first time was a “late file,” meaning it was filed much later in the session and had little chance of moving forward. Our sole sponsor was Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Joan Menard. Another legislator, Representative Ellen Story, sponsored a bill that called for a statewide study of workplace bullying and required larger employers to adopt policies concerning workplace bullying.

2011-12 session — The second time saw major steps forward. With the retirement of Sen. Menard, Rep. Story and Senator Katherine Clark stepped up as lead sponsors, joined by 11 others. The HWB jumped successfully through two committee hoops in the House and made it to a stage known as “third reading,” meaning it was ready for a full vote by the House.

2013-14 session — Now we have our two lead sponsors in Rep. Story and Sen. Clark, joined by 37 others. I call that progress, a genuine sign that we’re moving toward enacting this legislation.

Thank you!

Thank you to our elected officials, especially our lead sponsors, for their courageous leadership on behalf of cutting-edge legislation that will help people who have been severely mistreated at work and encourage employers to take workplace bullying seriously.

Thank you to all the advocates who have been e-mailing, calling, visiting, and otherwise supporting the eventual enactment of the Healthy Workplace Bill.

***

To learn more about Massachusetts advocacy efforts on behalf of the Healthy Workplace Bill, go here.

To learn more about campaigns in other states to enact the HWB, go here.

Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill advocates prepping for January 15 State House Day

BULLYINGLOGOwithURL

The start of the 2013-14 session of the Massachusetts legislature is upon us, and Healthy Workplace Bill supporters here in the Bay State are preparing for a January 15 “Meet With Your Legislators Day” to formally begin our advocacy efforts.

Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates is delighted to join a group of organizations led by MassCOSH on Tuesday, January 15, at 12:30 p.m., during which we’ll be asking our legislators to support bills that protect worker health & safety, including the HWB. We hope you will join us! Here is the relevant info from Deb Falzoi, communications director of Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

State House, Gardner Auditorium Foyer

Join the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates to encourage legislator support of critical worker health and safety/rights bills such as:

-Halting bullying in the workplace;

-Extending health and safety protections to state employees;

-Increasing burial benefits for families of fallen workers to prevent financial hardship; and,

-Ensuring basic protections for domestic workers.

The Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill is now officially supported by SEIU-NAGE Local 282, Massachusetts Teachers AssociationAFSCME Local 1526, MassCOSH, and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.

Many thanks to Marcy Gelb at MassCOSH for inviting us to be a part of this!

Submitting testimony in support of the HWB

Also, for those who are interested in submitting oral or written testimony supporting the HWB, please take note:

If you live in Massachusetts and are interested in testifying at the State House (date to be determined) OR submitting written testimonial for a packet for legislators, e-mail your story to Greg Sorozan at gsorozan@nage.org NO LATER THAN Friday, January 11, 2013. Your story should be 1-2 pages.

For story examples, visit http://www.mahealthyworkplace.com/workplace/crystal.html.

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