Move workplace abuse legislation forward in Rhode Island

Workplace abuse legislation passed the Rhode Island Senate in April. Shortly after, we testified in front of the House Labor Committee in support of House Bill 6087, which would establish a cause of action against employers and employees for workplace bullying, harassment, and other abusive conduct.

Rhode Island is the second state in the nation to pass our state’s Senate, and we need your help in getting the bill through the House so it can become law.

Email your workplace abuse story
to the House Labor Committee members

Draft your story in one page:
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, along with your name and address, to these legislators and ask them to move House Bill 6087 favorably out of committee:

Spread the word to others to either share their stories or simply write to these legislators in support of the bill.

The bill
Workplace abuse legislation give employers incentives to take inexpensive, proactive measures to deter abusive behavior, measures they already need to abide by with civil rights law. Finally, we’d hold employers accountable for abuse they generally ignore or make worse — and give them incentives to address it in the first place.

 Because the worst of the transgressions already are illegal, lawmakers seem satisfied to call for culprits to be fired or to step down and for corporate and industry leaders to promise that they’ll crack down on offenders more quickly in the future. But legislators can do more to address the problem. They can make workplace bullying illegal. Too many corporate leaders find it expedient to look the other way when bosses — especially ones they deem indispensable — systematically intimidate and humiliate underlings. Bullies who believe that their whims matter more than other people’s dignity often don’t see why their sexual impulses shouldn’t be just as indulged.”
— LA Times’ David Lieberman

Sadly, those who suffer most from abuse of power are those not often in power: women and non-White workers, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). It’s a loophole in the law that prevents those who don’t have power from ever getting it.The worst industries for abuse: education, healthcare, government, and other non-profits. 

Workplace abuse: the basics
Workplace abuse is a widespread problem. The WBI estimates that 60.4 million U.S. workers have been affected by it. That’s 1.5 times the population of California and four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination at work.

Employees suffer:
They begin feeling demoralized after repeated attacks (false accusations, exclusion, withholding necessary resources, behind-the-back sabotage and defamation, put-downs, excessively harsh criticism, and unreasonably heavy work demands, for example) and start to doubt their ability to succeed at employment elsewhere.
After months and years of abuse, they can experience a host of stress-related health problems including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, migraines, fatigue, muscle pain, and digestive issues.They’re forced to choose between their health and a paycheck and health insurance.
Some lose their entire careers, giving up their investments in education.
They feel isolated after their family and friends feel unable to help, leading to suicidal thoughts.
Organizations suffer, too. With increased absences (including sick leave), turnover, errors, and presenteeism (showing up but checking out) and decreased productivity and morale, organizations’ bottom lines deteriorate, making them less competitive.

We have environmental regulations to limit environmental risks but few regulations for employee well-being. We have occupational health and safety laws calling for reports on workplace accidents and deaths. We uphold building codes, put down wet floor signs, and routinely inspect equipment — all physical protections. But we don’t mention the human impact of emotional and mental abuse. So we leave employee health up to our CEOs, who too often ignore damage to their employees. We don’t leave environmental pollution and occupational health and safety up to CEOs. So why do we leave employee health up to CEOs — when CEOs too often lead in ways that serve neither the employees nor their bottom lines?

Other countries have laws that address workplace abuse, including Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, and Denmark. The United States remains last among western democracies to have no anti-abuse laws for the general workforce.

Another way you can help
We need as many people as possible to contact your own state legislators and ask them to move Senate Bill 90/House Bill 6087 forward. Legislators care most about what their own constituents want so they can get re-elected, so calling and emailing your own state legislators is an effective way to move the bill forward.
Find out how to contact your state legislators

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