U.S. legislative developments concerning workplace bullying (2013-15)

I just posted to my Social Science Research Network (SSRN) page a draft of a forthcoming law review essay, “Workplace Bullying and the Law: U.S. Legislative Developments 2013-15,” slated to appear later this year in the Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, published by the Chicago-Kent College of Law. This short piece is a follow-up to a panel presentation I gave in January at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

Here’s the abstract:

In 2014, California and Tennessee enacted statutes covering workplace bullying, making them the first American states to codify laws addressing this form of interpersonal mistreatment at work. These two statutes led a procession of recent legal and policy initiatives concerning workplace bullying in the United States, which also included a vetoed state bill and continued advocacy at the state levels for enactment of comprehensive workplace anti-bullying legislation. This essay, a follow-up to my panel presentation at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, will discuss significant legislative developments concerning workplace bullying at the state levels, covering 2013 through early 2015. It is the latest in my series of periodic law review commentaries about workplace bullying and American employment law.

The essay focuses on four states: It summarizes and analyzes the new California and Tennessee laws. It discusses the merits of a gubernatorial veto of workplace bullying legislation in New Hampshire. Finally, it examines the fortunes of the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts. This is by no means a comprehensive summary of legislative activity during the past three years, but rather takes a snapshot look at some of the most significant recent developments.

You may download pdfs of this piece and my other law review commentaries without charge from my SSRN page.

Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill draws 58 sponsors and co-sponsors for the 2015-16 session

hwb.ma

The re-filing of the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) in Massachusetts has drawn 58 sponsors and co-sponsors in the state House and Senate. Rep. Ellen Story (a pioneering supporter of workplace anti-bullying legislation) and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan are the lead sponsors.

This represents a significant sponsorship increase from previous legislative sessions. The HWB was introduced in Massachusetts by one sponsor in the 2009-10 session. This was followed by 13 HWB sponsors and co-sponsors in the 2011-12 session, and then up to 39 HWB sponsors and co-sponsors in the recently concluded 2013-14 session.

The growing support for the HWB is a testament to individuals who have asked their state legislators to sign on as co-sponsors and to advocacy groups that have given the bill their endorsements. We are grateful to the 58 legislators who are supporting this legislation:

Lead Sponsors

Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst)
Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster)

Co-sponsors

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston)
Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (D-Everett)
Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton)
Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover)
Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester)
Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn)
Rep. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow)
Rep. Bruce Ayers (D-Quincy)
Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton)
Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville)
Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose)
Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams)
Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn)
Rep. Angelo D’Emilia (D-Bridgewater)
Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)
Rep. Stephen L. DiNatale (D-Fitchburg)
Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)
Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead)
Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield)
Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester)
Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington)
Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham)
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield)
Rep. Kenneth Gordon (D-Bedford)
Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset)
Rep. Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown)
Rep. Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton)
Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester)
Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton)
Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton)
Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington)
Rep. Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge)
Rep. John Mahoney (D-Worcester)
Rep. Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable)
Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru)
Rep. Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth)
Rep. Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton)
Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch (D-Wellesley)
Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville)
Rep. Angelo Puppolo, Jr. (D-Springfield)
Rep. David Rogers (D-Cambridge)
Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston)
Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland)
Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley)
Rep. Alan Silvia (D-Fall River)
Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline)
Rep. Todd Smola (R-Warren)
Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield)
Rep. Walter F. Timilty (D-Milton)
Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke)
Rep. David Vieira (R-East Falmouth)
Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham)

If you truly believe that we need workplace bullying laws, then you keep plugging away until it happens

 

Massachusetts State House (photo: DY)

Massachusetts State House, Thursday a.m. (photo: DY)

This morning I joined advocates from across the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts State House for Legislative Co-Sponsorship Day, to generate support for workplace health and safety legislation, including the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB). The event was organized by our friends at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH).

We’re in the process of reintroducing the Healthy Workplace Bill in the 2015-16 session of the Massachusetts legislature. Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst) is once again our lead sponsor. At the MassCOSH event, we were among a dozen or so organizations that had tables in the Great Hall of the State House, and we were able to talk to many legislators and staff members. We had 39 legislative sponsors and co-sponsors last session, and we’re looking to grow that number during the bill filing season this time around.

Pictured below are Greg Sorozan and Lisa Smith of SEIU/NAGE, the public employee union that has played an invaluable lead role in helping to organize support for the Healthy Workplace Bill in the Bay State. In addition to serving as union president, Greg is a co-coordinator of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates. Lisa also has been a staunch supporter. Jim Redmond and Ray McGrath, two veteran lobbyists for the union who have been instrumental in working for the HWB in the State House, were also at the event to help us reach out to legislators and staff members.

Healthy Workplace Bill advocates Greg Sorozan and Lisa Smith (photo: DY)

Healthy Workplace Bill advocates Greg Sorozan and Lisa Smith (photo: DY)

I enjoy being around these folks because, among other reasons, they bring a resilient, steadfast commitment to advocating for workers that extends well beyond a single legislative session. As politically savvy advocates for workers, they know that legislation such as the HWB typically does not get enacted overnight. They embody the title of this blog post: If you truly believe that we need workplace bullying laws, then you keep plugging away until it happens.

Indeed, there’s no other way to do it. The legislative process is unpredictable and challenging. It requires infinite patience and, when things start moving, an ability to respond quickly. Those who are new to this world — including a lot of workplace bullying targets who suddenly find themselves supporting the HWB — often ask why it takes so long to enact legislation whose merits appear to be so self-evident. They need to understand, however, that we are competing for time and attention with thousands of other bills, of which only a fraction will become law.

Each legislative session hopefully brings at least incremental progress, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in Massachusetts. We no longer have to explain ourselves in nearly as much detail as when we first introduced the HWB three sessions ago. The bill has gained a familiar presence in the State House, and we’ve got a core of legislators who are committed to co-sponsoring it. And we’re attracting more and more support from worker advocacy groups and everyday citizens who press their case upon our elected officials as well.

So, if you want the HWB to become law, then we need you to sign up for the long haul. It means going back to the State House, making those calls, and sending those e-mails, as many times as it takes. We keep getting closer and closer to success, but only continued commitment and perseverance will make it happen.

***

Massachusetts residents: If you support the HWB, you may contact your state representative and state senator, and ask them to co-sponsor Rep. Ellen Story’s workplace bullying bill, House Docket 2072 (an official bill number will be provided later). The deadline for co-sponsorship in the House is January 30; the deadline for the Senate is more flexible, but we’d like to get as many Senate co-sponsors by that date as possible.

Working Notes: Talking about workplace bullying and worker dignity

Click the link below to listen!

Click the link below to listen!

Dear Readers, here’s a quick roundup of links to, and information about, some of the work I’ve been doing.

Mara Dolan Show

On Monday morning, I was a guest on the Mara Dolan Show (WCAP AM 980), talking about workplace bullying and prospects for the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts. Mara is a respected political commentator who has interviewed many “movers and shakers” in the Bay State; it was such a privilege to be on her show! To listen to our interview, go here. (We lost our connection for a few minutes early in the interview, but Mara filled in seamlessly before I dialed back in and we finished the interview.)

Massachusetts Legislative Co-Sponsorship Day for workplace health and safety bills, this Thursday

This Thursday I’ll be joining advocates from across the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts State House for Legislative Co-Sponsorship Day, to generate support for workplace health and safety legislation, including the Healthy Workplace Bill. The event is organized by our friends at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Please join us this Thursday morning if you can!

Blog interview with Fiona McQuarrie

Dr. Fiona McQuarrie, a business school professor at the University of the Fraser Valley (British Columbia, Canada), interviewed me for her popular All About Work blog, in connection with the very serious sexual harassment and assault allegations lodged against Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio host Jian Ghomeshi, a story receiving a lot of attention north of the border. Our focus was on executive responsibility and accountability for the wrongful actions of lower-level employees. You can read the full interview here.

Two panels at the May 2015 “Work, Stress and Health” Conference in Atlanta

In May, I’ll be presenting at one of my favorite events, the biennial “Work, Stress and Health” conference, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Society for Occupational Health Psychology. This year’s conference will be held on May 6-9 in Atlanta.

A few days ago, I was delighted to receive word that two of my symposium proposals have been accepted, one on the impact of emerging workplace bullying legislation on employee relations stakeholders (with Gary Namie, Ellen Pinkos Cobb, and Maureen Duffy), and another on coaching as an intervention strategy for workplace bullying (with John-Robert Curtin, Ivonne Moreno-Velazquez, and Jessi Eden Brown). I’m really looking forward to both of these programs.

Workplace bullying in the educational sectors: First-person accounts

Given the frequency and severity of workplace bullying in the educational sectors — from primary through post-secondary — I wanted to share two items of possible interest:

Higher education

First, The Guardian, my favorite British newspaper, has run a first-person piece on the experience of being bullied in higher education. Here’s the lede:

Bullying is rife in academia – and it is tolerated to an extent that wouldn’t be acceptable in other areas. I’ve seen careers wasted in academia just by bad management and bad practice. My story is an illustration of what can go wrong.

The story intertwines the writer’s difficult personal circumstances and bullying at work, a not-uncommon combination, and it shows the deeper contexts in which these behaviors arise.

For those interested, The Guardian also is sponsoring an anonymous survey on bullying in higher ed that can be accessed from the article, the results of which will be used in the newspaper’s research study on the topic.

K-12 education

Torii Bottomley, an educator in the Greater Boston area, has shared her story of workplace bullying in a short video produced by the Moral Courage Channel:

This is one of many accounts I’ve heard over the years about bullying of teachers at the K-12 levels. It’s a terribly serious problem, and the most horrific stories are like something out of a dystopian novel.

***

Related posts

Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven? (revised 2014)

Educator finds renewal after being bullied at work (2014)

Deb Caldieri, supporter of school bullying victim Phoebe Prince, faces severe challenges today (2013)

UMass Amherst launches campus-wide anti-bullying initiative (2013)

Legal and public policy challenges facing public schoolteachers: A brief report from Memphis (2012)

Maryland teachers sue for bullying and harassment (2012)

 

Working Notes: Interview with workplace anti-bullying activist, Kaplan survey on bullying & nurses, freelancers & nasty clients

Good morning, dear readers! Here are three items that may be of interest to you:

1. Tufts professor profiles Massachusetts anti-bullying activist and labor leader Greg Sorozan

Tufts University professor Lisa Gualtieri did an excellent in-depth interview Greg Sorozan, coordinator of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates and union president. Greg has been a pioneering voice in the labor movement on workplace bullying and is an initial Fellow of the U.S. Academy of Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse. I encourage you to read Dr. Gualtieri’s full profile of Greg; here’s the intro:

“Bullying is part of the spectrum of abusive behaviors that exist in this world. I know about child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and now adult abuse at work. They all work together to create many, if not most, of the health and mental health problems we have,” said Greg Sorozan. Greg is President of SEIU/NAGE Local 282 and Massachusetts State Coordinator of The Healthy Workplace Bill, working to prevent bullying in the workplace. I read about his work in a Boston Globe article and his MA legislative activity and asked to interview him about his work as a patient activist.

2. Kaplan survey: Nursing school graduates concerned about workplace bullying

A survey by the Kaplan testing preparation company shows that nearly half of surveyed 2014 nursing school graduates are concerned about experiencing bullying and related behaviors. Here’s the lede from the Kaplan news release:

For those entering the workforce, typical top-of-mind issues include opportunities for growth, benefits, and job security — but nearly half of those entering the nursing profession voice another concern: being bullied by colleagues. According to a just-released Kaplan survey of over 2,000 nursing school graduates from the class of 2014, 48% say they are concerned about being the victims of workplace bullying or working in a hostile working environment. The survey also found that 39% personally knew nurses who were victims of workplace bullying or a hostile working environment.

 3. Freelancers Union piece on working with jerks

A sense of independence is one of the great appeals of going the freelance route, and that may include being able to work with agreeable clients instead of difficult ones. But it’s not always that easy; bullying-type behaviors rear their ugly heads in the indie sector as well. Kate Hamill, writing for the Freelancers Union blog, shares a bad client situation from her early freelancing days and lessons learned from it. Here’s a snippet:

Early on in my freelance career, I worked with a company that has since gone under – quite deservedly. Looking back, there were a lot of red flags: a haphazard hiring process, an unclear reporting structure (to this day, I can’t tell you exactly who my boss was), relatively low pay, and unreasonable demand. Most tellingly, they employed an army of freelance writers, with a high turnover rate.

…It didn’t take long for the client to become unpleasant. It started out with small things; deadlines that seemed unreasonable, unsubtle demands to work overtime, a tendency to ignore boundaries. I would send emails that got no response, only to get chewed out days later for not following policy. When I forwarded emails that exonerated me… no reply. They kept giving me more and more work, including assignments I was painfully unqualified for. Then I found out how much money they were charging THEIR clients for my services, while claiming I possessed certain certifications… that I didn’t.  I was making about 10% of what they were charging. Their language got increasingly harsh – with me, with everybody.

 

 

The quest to enact Healthy Workplace legislation, Part II: From individual targets to advocates for change

In our efforts to advance the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) in the recently concluded Massachusetts legislative session, we started getting feedback from folks inside the State House at levels of frequency and intensity that we hadn’t heard before: Your advocates are making a difference.

In other words, when our outreach coordinator asked HWB supporters to contact legislators at different points in the process,  those supporters responded by getting on the phone, sending e-mails, and scheduling visits. While we fell short of the success we had hoped for, at critical points the HWB made it to next procedural steps and overcame opposition because of the voices of our grassroots advocates.

This is a critically important development, and permit me to explain why.

Many advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill have experienced workplace bullying. In other words, they have been targets, and they know firsthand what this form of interpersonal abuse can do to people. They also understand how being bullied at work can be a lonely, isolating experience, especially when others around you dive for cover or start to keep their distance.

That sense of isolation can create self-protective barriers that may make it difficult for targets to participate in a movement to create legal protections against how they were mistreated.

And yet, we’re now seeing more targets coming out of the woodwork, joining with others to say that the law, among other societal institutions, should step in and draw the line against workplace bullying.

For many, it’s not easy. Sharing one’s story, even self-identifying as a target during, say, a phone call with a legislative staffer, means revisiting very difficult stuff. But those personal stories are helping to drive the forces for change.

Especially for those people, I hope that being a part of a broader response to their own terrible experience is a life-affirming way to make positive change. So many social movements leading to legal reforms — the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement, to name a few — have been fueled by people who have experienced injustice and abuse. Why not this one?

***

Related post

The quest to enact Healthy Workplace legislation, Part I: Subtle progress in Massachusetts (2014)

 

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