With workplace bullying in the Senate, it’s time for Massachusetts legislators to take a stand


The Senate Committee on Ethics on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 released its report concerning Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg and concluded that Rosenberg had ample evidence of workplace harassment but failed to remedy it for those who depended on him: his own staff, his fellow Senators and their staff, and ultimately his constituents, Commonwealth employees, and the people of the Commonwealth. Had workplace bullying without regard to protected class been illegal, Senate staff could have had clear and safe recourse to protect themselves from Rosenberg’s negligence that emboldened his husband’s toxic behavior — leading ultimately to threats, racial comments, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and costs to taxpayers through a thorough investigation.

Given legal protections from workplace bullying, staff would have been able to seek help when Rosenberg:

  • Failed to uphold the IT policy he didn’t read by giving his husband, who exhibited bullying behavior, full access to his email account — and asking his staff to do the same even when they expressed discomfort.
  • Excused his husband’s bullying behavior as “mental health issues” once he was aware of the harassment and concerned about where it might lead.
  • Emboldened the bullying behavior by continuing to inform his husband of Senate matters despite his husband’s prior harassment of staff.

Workplace bullying occurs in workplace cultures where leadership at the top allows it to happen. Rosenberg supported a bully culture by:

  • Exempting himself from Senate policies.
  • Failing to protect staff by excusing unethical and dangerous behavior.
  • Continuing to give a known bully access to tools that furthered his bullying.
  • Failing to implement a workplace bullying policy and to empower Human Resource staff to uphold it.

Had workplace bullying been illegal, Rosenberg’s staff could have felt safe to do their jobs in a respectful and dignified work environment. They would have had a clear and safe path to report violations of a workplace bullying policy and would have likely prevented Rosenberg’s husband from escalating his abusive behavior.

Now that they know their own policies fail to create a workplace free from harassment and its destructive consequences, Senators can:

In the words of the Senate Committee on Ethics, when leaders have evidence and fail to act in support of those who depend on them, “the most obvious sanction for a failure of leadership would be the loss of the relevant leadership position.”

Respectful and dignified work environments start at the top.


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