Healthy Workplace Bill: Forty-five percent of the Massachusetts legislature supports workplace anti-bullying legislation

The Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), which permits targets of severe workplace bullying to seek damages in court and creates liability-reducing incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively towards bullying behaviors at work, is gaining considerable momentum in the new session of the Massachusetts legislature. As of Friday, February 1, lead sponsor Senator Paul Feeney has been joined by 90 legislative co-sponsors in supporting the bill — representing some 45 percent of the Massachusetts legislature.

This is one of the strongest showings of legislative support for comprehensive workplace anti-bullying legislation at the bill-filing stage in the young history of the national advocacy campaign on behalf of the HWB.

As readers familiar with legislative processes know, the process of enacting new legislation — especially on cutting-edge subjects — is often a long slog requiring patience and commitment. This is our fifth full session of bringing the HWB to the Massachusetts legislature. We’ve continued to build support for the HWB during every session, and that work is paying off. The current list of co-sponsors far exceeds the previous record of 58 for the 2015-16 session.

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For years, the lead sponsor of the HWB was Rep. Ellen Story, and her steadfast work brought us a long way. Since Rep. Story’s retirement, our new lead sponsor, Sen. Feeney, has stepped in to give the HWB his fullest commitment. Like Rep. Story, Sen. Feeney and his staff have worked closely with our advocates to build support for the bill.

On the advocacy front, special shout-outs go to two co-coordinators of this campaign: Deb Falzoi, whose invaluable efforts in leading our advocacy group and social media outreach have fueled the growing momentum behind the bill; and Greg Sorozan, whose vital work as a union leader through SEIU/NAGE (a major public employee union in Massachusetts) has given us critically useful insider assistance in advocating for the HWB in the legislature.

And at its core, this grassroots legislative campaign is about the thousands of individuals who are calling, e-mailing, and visiting their legislators to urge their support of the HWB. Many have shared personal stories of experiencing workplace abuse. A lot of folks are bravely stepping up to make a difference.

This work is far from finished. When it comes to legislative advocacy, there are no guarantees. That said, having 91 legislative supporters of the HWB in Massachusetts is a major step forward. We have gone from being a novelty, to a presence, and now to a genuine force. 

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The Massachusetts HWB currently carries the docket number 1355. The permanent bill number for the 2019-20 session will be assigned later. For more information about the Massachusetts advocacy campaign for the HWB, see its website (here) or Facebook page (here).

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As some readers may know, the seeds of the HWB were planted in a law review article that I authored (published in 2000 by the Georgetown Law Journal), in which I surveyed the serious inadequacies of existing employment protections for targets of workplace bullying and suggested the parameters of needed new legal protections. I drafted the original version of the HWB in 2002, and in 2003, it was filed for the first time in the California legislature — championed by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie of the pioneering Workplace Bullying Institute.

When I embarked on this work some 20 years ago, I had no idea of where it might lead. But thanks to the efforts of countless individuals, we are now creating growing legislative recognition that the harm wrought by workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse should be subject to legal consequences. At this point, it’s about building public support for legal measures to fill the huge gaps that leave workers so vulnerable to these forms of interpersonal mistreatment.

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Here is the current list of supporters. Because the State Senate has a later deadline for co-sponsoring bills, it is very possible that we’ll be adding additional names.

Name District/Address
Paul R. Feeney Bristol and Norfolk
Ruth B. Balser 12th Middlesex
Jack Patrick Lewis 7th Middlesex
Diana DiZoglio First Essex
Steven Ultrino 33rd Middlesex
Lindsay N. Sabadosa 1st Hampshire
Maria Duaime Robinson 6th Middlesex
Denise Provost 27th Middlesex
Rebecca L. Rausch Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex
Daniel M. Donahue 16th Worcester
Carmine Lawrence Gentile 13th Middlesex
Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr. 12th Hampden
Carolyn C. Dykema 8th Middlesex
Patrick M. O’Connor Plymouth and Norfolk
James T. Welch Hampden
Aaron Vega 5th Hampden
David Allen Robertson 19th Middlesex
Natalie M. Higgins 4th Worcester
James J. O’Day 14th Worcester
Joanne M. Comerford Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester
Louis L. Kafka 8th Norfolk
Tommy Vitolo 15th Norfolk
Tram T. Nguyen 18th Essex
Carole A. Fiola 6th Bristol
Mike Connolly 26th Middlesex
Adrian C. Madaro 1st Suffolk
Thomas M. Stanley 9th Middlesex
James B. Eldridge Middlesex and Worcester
Anne M. Gobi Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex
Kevin G. Honan 17th Suffolk
Patrick Joseph Kearney 4th Plymouth
Daniel J. Hunt 13th Suffolk
Bruce E. Tarr First Essex and Middlesex
Kate Hogan 3rd Middlesex
Marjorie C. Decker 25th Middlesex
Michael J. Rodrigues First Bristol and Plymouth
Edward F. Coppinger 10th Suffolk
Bud L. Williams 11th Hampden
Bruce J. Ayers 1st Norfolk
Elizabeth A. Malia 11th Suffolk
John J. Mahoney 13th Worcester
Paul McMurtry 11th Norfolk
John J. Lawn, Jr. 10th Middlesex
David M. Rogers 24th Middlesex
Danielle W. Gregoire 4th Middlesex
Todd M. Smola 1st Hampden
John C. Velis 4th Hampden
Tami L. Gouveia 14th Middlesex
Jay D. Livingstone 8th Suffolk
Lori A. Ehrlich 8th Essex
Sal N. DiDomenico Middlesex and Suffolk
RoseLee Vincent 16th Suffolk
Tackey Chan 2nd Norfolk
Daniel R. Carey 2nd Hampshire
Alan Silvia 7th Bristol
David Henry Argosky LeBoeuf 17th Worcester
Paul W. Mark 2nd Berkshire
Russell E. Holmes 6th Suffolk
Jonathan D. Zlotnik 2nd Worcester
Antonio F. D. Cabral 13th Bristol
Andres X. Vargas 3rd Essex
Christina A. Minicucci 14th Essex
Ann-Margaret Ferrante 5th Essex
Michael O. Moore Second Worcester
Sean Garballey 23rd Middlesex
Jonathan Hecht 29th Middlesex
James M. Kelcourse 1st Essex
Mathew J. Muratore 1st Plymouth
Liz Miranda 5th Suffolk
Jerald A. Parisella 6th Essex
Elizabeth A. Poirier 14th Bristol
Donald F. Humason, Jr. Second Hampden and Hampshire
Joseph A. Boncore First Suffolk and Middlesex
Julian Cyr Cape and Islands
Michael F. Rush Norfolk and Suffolk
Susannah M. Whipps 2nd Franklin
Jon Santiago 9th Suffolk
Carlos González 10th Hampden
Brian M. Ashe 2nd Hampden
Paul F. Tucker 7th Essex
James Arciero 2nd Middlesex
Stephan Hay 3rd Worcester
Daniel R. Cullinane 12th Suffolk
David T. Vieira 3rd Barnstable
Jeffrey N. Roy 10th Norfolk
Chynah Tyler 7th Suffolk
Michelle L. Ciccolo 15th Middlesex
Kay Khan 11th Middlesex
James K. Hawkins 2nd Bristol
Mindy Domb 3rd Hampshire
Natalie M. Blais 1st Franklin

2 responses

  1. David, So now we have an estimate of how long it takes for a prophetic idea to become real, at least two decades. Good job, your team has persistence and works hard. The goal is in sight.

    Jerry Halberstadt Coordinator, Stop Bullying Coalition email: Jerry@StopBullyingCoalition.org StopBullyingCoalition.org

    • Jerry, the good news is that our “active” phase in Massachusetts has been about half that time. This is our fifth full two-year legislative session, and we’re now making real progress.

      I hope that your anti-bullying advocacy on behalf of seniors in housing attracts similar growing support.

      David

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