It’s time to get co-sponsors to make severe workplace abuse illegal in Massachusetts

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We now have a Docket Number — Senate Docket Number 1355 — for legislators to sign on to the workplace anti-abuse Healthy Workplace Bill. We have exactly two weeks — until February 1 — to ask all of our state legislators to co-sponsor the bill. (Then we’ll get a new bill number that we’ll use to promote the bill for the rest of the two-year session.)

We need your help.

Legislators care most about what their own constituents want so they can get re-elected, so we ask you to:

  1. Call your own State Rep AND State Senator. Tell whoever answers the phone “I’m calling to ask _____ to sign onto Senate Docket Number 1355, an act addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, without regard to protected class status. The lead sponsor is Senator Paul Feeney.” They’ll likely ask you your name and address.
  2. Followup with an email. Tell your legislators why you want them to sign onto Senate Docket Number 1355 and why you want the bill to pass. Include links to these flyers to explain the bill and the full text of the bill:
    http://www.mahealthyworkplace.com/MAWorkplaceBullyingFactSheet.pdf
    http://www.mahealthyworkplace.com/MAWorkplaceBullyingFactSheet3.pdf
    https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD1355
  3. Ask others to do the same.

Thanks for your persistence on this bill, knowing that bills often take years to pass.

Let’s do this!

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The vast majority of nurses have dealt with workplace abuse. That’s staggering.

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“Roughly 85 percent of nurses have been abused by a fellow nurse and approximately one in three nurses have considered quitting the profession due to bullying,” according to a 2017 blog post by Pittsburgh-based Select International Healthcare says Alyssa Rege in her article “8 things to know about nurse bullying” from Becker’s Hospital Review.

You read that right. 85 percent — meaning the vast majority of nurses — experience workplace abuse, which in turn affects patient care (read: you and your loved ones), and one in three considers tossing everything they worked for — years of schooling and studying — right in the trash to take their health and dignity back.

“Nurses eat their young” is a common phrase workplace anti-abuse advocates who are nurses use. It was coined in 1986, and it’s not at all outdated.

Rege points to these eight facts about nurse abuse:

1. “Forty-five percent of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses, according to a 2017 survey by employment agency RNnetwork.” More than a third have been verbally harassed or bullied by managers, administrators, or physicians.

2. Abuse takes the form of verbal harassment, threats, physical violence, sabotage, withholding information, exclusion, unreasonable workloads, or downplaying accomplishments.

3. Abuse takes a toll on self-esteem and trickles to the health and well-being of patients.

4. Nurses do not generally report abuse. If they do report it, managers most often do little to nothing to fix the problem. “Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CEO of AORN, cited a survey in which only 38 percent of managers said they attempted to address complaints of bullying brought to their attention.”

5. Some researchers say competition plays a role. “Theories suggest that age-old female ‘competition’ [in the medical field] has shifted from competing over a man to competing over status, respect, and position in the nursing environment. The same behaviors once witnessed between two women fighting over a man are the ones witnessed today in the behavior of bullies,” Dr. Renee Thompson says. (We say that healing professions attract nurturers, often women. Abusers are drawn to nurturing, competent, and ethical employees as targets because these targets see the workplace as cooperative and stand up less frequently to abuse than those who see the workplace as competitive.)

6. Nurses should document the abuse, including “dates, times, witnesses, verbatim comments, and any behaviors you believe undermine a culture of safety and a professional work environment,” said Thompson. If nothing else, the documentation will show you you’re not crazy when abusers try to teach you that you are.

7. Nurse managers can take the lead in recognizing and stopping abuse and defining, modeling, and enforcing expectations.

8. Hospital executives can investigate abuse swiftly and adequately.

Help make severe workplace abuse illegal at a Lobby Day right before the co-sponsor deadline

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This Friday, we’ll get a Docket Number for the workplace anti-abuse Healthy Workplace Bill and then take the next two weeks to ask all of our state legislators to co-sponsor the bill. (Then we’ll get a new bill number that we’ll use to promote the bill for the rest of the two-year session.)

The most co-sponsors we’ve had in a legislative session is 58, and we want to beat that number. We’ll have until Friday, February 1 to make it happen, and we need your help.

Legislators care most about what their own constituents want so they can get re-elected, so on Friday or later, we’ll ask you to call your State Senator and State Rep asking them to co-sponsor the bill (script and Docket Number coming in the next few days) and followup with an email. We’ll also ask you to ask others to do the same.

What makes even more of a difference is meeting with your legislators, allowing them to put a person and a story behind the cause. And we can meet as a group to make it easier on you and more impactful on the legislator.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your State Rep AND State Senator and ask whoever answers the phone if you can setup an appointment with your legislator on Wednesday, January 30 (exactly two weeks from today) between 11am-1pm at the State House. (If they don’t have any time between those hours available, try to get an appointment sometime in the afternoon close to 1pm).
  2. If you get an appointment, take the day or afternoon off from work (or join us on your lunch break if you’re in the Boston area).
  3. Email info@mahealthyworkplace.com with your name, legislator name, and meeting time. If you can’t get an appointment that day or at all, feel free to join us anyways and still RSVP so we can send you the location where we’ll all meet at 11am.

We’ll join you at the meeting as a group and take care of everything else (figuring out their office location, navigating the State House, and bringing flyers). 

How workplace abuse law hasn’t kept up with #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter

Me Too hashtag from cube letters, anti sexual harassment social media campaign

In recent years, we’ve seen thousands take to the streets to defend women’s rights in women’s marches around the globe. We’ve seen our social media threads fill up with the hashtag #MeToo, standing up to sexual harassment and assault. We’ve seen protest after protest demanding that #BlackLivesMatter.

We’ve seen hundreds of thousands stand up to abuse of power. Yet the law hasn’t kept up.

Upwards of one in three workers will experience abuse at work according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. Women, Hispanics, and African-Americans are the most likely to be targeted.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects these groups from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. So why are these groups more likely to endure verbal abuse, sabotage, and other types of threatening, intimidating, and humiliating behavior?

While important legislation, this act only protects those who can connect their membership in the group to the abuse. So those workers whose abusers are in the same protected class may be out of luck, even if the abuse comes from unconscious bias. In the past five years, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has paid out more than $1.8 million in abuse cases in which plantiffs proved the abuse came from their membership in a protected class. Meanwhile, those who received similar mistreatment but couldn’t prove discrimination — even if they’re in a protected class — weren’t afforded the same justice.

It’s time to get with the times

The law is inadequate in protecting those taking to the streets from abuse of power. But the solution is simple: pass workplace anti-abuse legislation. The law would get at the root of discrimination law, which is to protect workers from mistreatment.

In On the Basis of Sex, Felicity Jones delivers Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s powerful closing arguments in her first Supreme Court case to illustrate the outdated laws. In this case, Ginsburg defended Charles Moritz, who did not benefit from the same tax code as women for caring for his aging mother while working outside the home:

A hundred years ago, Myra Bradwell wanted to be a lawyer. She had fulfilled the requirements for the Illinois bar, but wasn’t allowed to practice because she was a woman. An injustice she asked the Supreme Court to correct. Illinois was so confident of victory, they didn’t even send a lawyer to argue their side. They were right. She lost. That was the first time someone went to court to challenge his or her prescribed gender role. A hundred years ago. Radical social change?

Sixty-five years ago. When women in Oregon wanted to work overtime, and make more money, as men could. The Court looked to the precedent in Bradwell. And said no. And then there were two precedents. Then three. Then four. And on. And on. You can draw a direct line from Myra Bradwell to Gwendolyn Hoyt — told ten years ago she was not entitled to a jury of her peers.

That is the legacy the Government asks you to uphold today. You are being urged to protect the culture and traditions and morality of an America that no longer exists.

A generation ago, my students would have been arrested for indecency wearing the clothes that they do.

Sixty-five years ago, it would have been unimaginable that my daughter would aspire to a career. And a hundred years ago. I would not have had the right to stand before you.

We are not asking you to change the country. That’s already happened without any Court’s permission. We are asking you to protect the right
of the country to change.

There are a hundred and seventy-eight federal laws that differentiate on the basis of sex. Count them. The Government did the favor of compiling them for you. And while you’re at it, I urge you to read them. They are obstacles to our children’s aspirations.

I’m asking you to set a new precedent. As courts have done before when the law is outdated.

Our sons and daughters are barred by law from opportunities based on
assumptions about their abilities. How will they ever disprove these
assumptions, if laws like Section 214 are allowed to stand?

That is why we must take these laws on. One-by-one. For as long as it
takes. For their sakes.

And you have the power to set the precedent that will get us started.
You can right this wrong, by — The principle purpose of Section 214 is not to protect women nor to discriminate against men. It is to provide caregivers the opportunity to work outside the home. Therefore — as the Supreme Court did in Levy v. Louisiana — this court should fix the law in the way most in line with the legislative intent. Extend the deduction to never-married men. Help all caregivers equally.

Our client, Charles Moritz, was well raised to be the sort of man we should all hope our sons will become. He deserves our admiration. Not only has he accepted the burden of caring for his… very strong-willed mother — when no one would expect it of him. But in doing so, he has surpassed the limitations the rest of us — and our laws — try to force upon him. We rest our case on our briefs and argument, and ask that you reverse the Tax Court’s decision.

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In the case of workplace abuse protections, there’s a major gap in the law. Those in protected classes have extremely insufficient protections, leaving those in power to abuse that power and to keep their positions of power — in every industry.

It’s no wonder that women, Hispanics, and African-Americans occupy fewer positions of power when those in power write the rules — and ignore proposed rules — to keep themselves in power.

A city worker deals with abuse from a politically-connected co-worker who higher-ups won’t discipline

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I work for a Massachusetts city in the capacity of a senior clerk and typist. I began my time with them completely and utterly oblivious that these types of workplaces existed.   

I began my time working for an amazing asst. superintendent who is no longer with the district. I began as an office clerk. In our office, there was an administrative assistant and two other administrators under the asst. superintendent. I came into the roles as a team player, hard worker, and willing to go the extra mile. I was there for six months and was looking for a move into a senior clerk and typist position within the district due to low wages of the office clerk position. The asst. superintendent saw my worth and kept me on in her office as a senior clerk. The administrative assistant was a senior clerk at one time — those positions are made for people who are politically connected in our city. Her husband was a city councilman.

So time progressed, and I worked closely with the asst. superintendent on many major projects for the district. The administrative assistant would make me hand her the work when I finished and then email it as her own work to all the principals, administrators, and higher-ups. These higher-ups would call and ask her questions, and she would put them on hold and ask me for information. I was her work horse, and she took the accolades. She was good at what she did and was careful in front of the asst. superintendent who has since left. 

The new asst. superintendent asked such questions as “Who works on report cards? Benchmarks? District Improvement? Home School? Mentoring?” It was all me. Then this administrative assistant told me privately that she wanted all the work on my computer. I went to the new asst. superintendent and HR and was moved out so they could protect my hostile work environment. Despite the fact she was not liked in our building and I was well-liked, I was the one moved so as not to upset the political cart.

I was moved to the high school. Lo and behold, I was moved to a position two women left due to complaints about an employee who is politically connected to a school committee person and was promoted to administrative assistant ($20,000 more than a senior clerk). Her reputation is well-known in the building, and I have a building of administrators and workers who would vouch for her behavior. Again, I am the worker. My workload is astronomical and I work for two schools (even though she states she was given her promotion because she did district-wide work).  She gives me unreasonably heavy work demands and spies on my phone calls. If I am on the phone, she will actually come outside my office and bang things and pace outside my door. She has stalked me on Facebook and sent me a rude text after I posted thanking the girls in the front office for something. 

I told our director, and he just laughs. He will say “You know what she’s like so don’t let it bother you.” They have a close relationship. She uses exclusion and the silent treatment. She and the director are always closing the doors when they speak. Recently, she stopped saying hello to me or speaking to me since I broke my leg, which meant she actually had to work. Prior to this I attempted to be kind to her, as she is despised by everyone in our building, and I just wanted a good work environment. I realize now it is impossible with her. I come to work anxious, my stomach gets upset, and I have trouble sleeping. 

I have nowhere to turn. All administrators in the building tell me just to hang in there. They can’t do anything due to her mother in-law. I am so disillusioned with this district and the fact that hard work means nothing. It is who you know, and abusive behavior is ignored.


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

We’re taking workplace abuse education on the road

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Now that the new two-year legislative session is here, we’re packing up our flyers and taking them around the Commonwealth to educate people on what workplace abuse is and how they can help make severe workplace abuse illegal.

Since this group is all-volunteer, you can help to keep the road show moving:

  • Organizers. Email organizations in your area (or anywhere in Massachusetts if you have contacts) to ask if we can speak to their groups: Democratic and Republican Town Committees, churches, progressives groups, unions, labor groups, women’s organizations, etc. — whoever you’re able to reach out to.
  • Speakers. Speak about what workplace abuse is in your area. We’ll train you online and setup appointments that work for you.

Email info@mahealthyworkplace.com to sign up for either volunteer position.

If you head up an organization and would like us to speak about workplace abuse and the Healthy Workplace Bill, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

Other ways to help

Share your story anonymously for a hearing packet, our blog, social media videos, and a packet for all legislators. A suggested outline for your 1-2 page story includes:
Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

Email your story to info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

Call potential supporters. We have the scripts, names, and phone numbers. We just need you. It’s easy, rewarding, and completely based on your schedule. Email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com for more information.

Write blog posts. If you’re a writer, share your skills on our blog that reaches thousands of supporters. Email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com for more information.

Plan a Lobby Day. Decide that you’d like to visit the State House to meet with your legislators, schedule a meeting time with their schedulers, and ask others in your district to join you by letting us know when you’ll be there. We’ll get the word out to see who else is interested, and you’ll get support and a chance to meet other advocates.

Lend your expertise and connections. Have an idea that you can execute, such as creating an art exhibit, producing videos, or writing an op-ed? Have connections you can make for the cause or know reporters or pro-labor organizers? If you’d like to discuss other ways to get involved in efforts, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

An administrator abuses a teacher to replace her with her friend

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About two years ago, I lost my job as a teacher. I had a great observation my first year of teaching. I was on cloud nine. Life was great.

The second year of teaching, we got a new administrator whose goal apparently was to make my life a living hell. She would show up in my room randomly, criticize every move I made as an educator, and constantly compare me with other educators in the building and use their names while telling me how I needed to be more like them. I went so far as to enroll myself back in a local university and take a class to prove to my administrator that I did in fact know my material and what I was doing.

After months of harassment from her, I was informed that I would not be coming back as a teacher. Everything I’d worked for was gone: so many years in school, nights studying, exams, MTELs — gone.

I was told by my union to just apply in a low income area because they hire anyone. I found that my last resort could be to face my former district in trial court. It wasn’t just the harassment that caused me to push forward. It’s also the fact that my administrator broke my contract several times. I was stripped away from everything I worked so hard for. I was let go so my admin could hire her friend from her former district.

Coworkers saw what I was going through and felt helpless because it led all the way up to the superintendent. My fate was sealed in the beginning of my last year. The superintendent included emails in my personnel file that showed that. I never really even had a fair shot at an evaluation my second year as it had already been mapped out for me.


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?