This session marks the fourth full legislative session that the all-volunteer Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates have introduced the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, this session Senate Bill 1013, to make severe cases of workplace bullying illegal.
We thank you
We knew going into the process that it would take several years to pass a bill. This bill is no exception. When passed, the bill will improve work cultures. That’s major change. And you’ve stayed passionate with making phone calls and spreading the word the entire time because this work is so important and thousands of workers need our help.
We’ve spent the last several years building a base of support for this legislation, and we won’t stop building that base until this bill gets passed.
Here’s what we’ve accomplished together:
- We’ve built a base of more than 16,000 advocates who reach out to their legislators at key points in the process. That list grows daily thanks to you sharing Facebook posts, tweets, and emails.
- We’ve grown in legislative support. The number of legislators supporting the bill has grown from 13 to 39 to 58. This session, formal endorsements went to 49, but we gained the support over the session of an additional 21 legislators. That’s a total of 70 out of roughly 200 legislators.
How the process works
- Every odd year in the two-year session, we re-introduce the bill in January and start the process all over again but have a bigger base to stand on (legislator and advocate support). We get a Docket Number to use to add on co-sponsors.
HOW WE NEED YOUR HELP IN JANUARY: Call your legislators urging them to sign on once we have a Docket Number.
- Then we get a Bill Number. We continue spreading the word through our website, Facebook page, Facebook group, Twitter account, blog, petition, and e-blast.
HOW WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW AND NEXT SPRING: Share social media posts and emails and spread the word.
- We testify at the scheduled hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The legislators on this committee change each session.
HOW WE NEED YOUR HELP FOR THE HEARING: Show up in support or testify.
- At this point, the bill can move to the Senate or House. Only a limited number of the hundreds of proposed bills make it this far, and the Healthy Workplace Bill has been one of them in the majority of past sessions.
HOW WE NEED YOUR HELP: Meet with your legislators, tell them your stories, ask them what concerns they have about the bill language, and urge them to move the bill forward.
Our plans for next session
There are two major challenges with this bill:
- Educating others on what workplace bullying is since it’s not yet a household term.
- Creating urgency behind the bill in the State House since it competes with other pressing matters.
Getting media support. Since legislators tend to pay attention to what’s in the news, we hope to get the word out through news articles, which often generate more news:
- A Boston Globe Spotlight reporter may write a story about a bullied Cape Cod nurse who took his life after workplace bullying.
- We’re obtaining data on roughly how much workplace bullying has cost Massachusetts taxpayers.
- We’ve been pitching reporters about tying workplace bullying to the #MeToo movement since sexual harassment is a form of workplace bullying.
- We can help get your story out, even anonymously. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your one-page story. Include:
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?
Associations for government employees, lawyers, mental health professionals, non-profits, and teachers
Democratic Town Committees and progressive groups
Republican Town Committees
Social justice groups
In the next few weeks, we’ll announce September meetings across the state so you can get involved and bring your voice to the cause. Consider:
What skills you have. Are you a writer who can help write blog posts? Are you a people-person who can help make phone calls to our list of potential supporters based on the most progressive areas of the state where we lack support? Are you an artist who can create an exhibit related to workplace bullying? Do you have experience with political campaigns? Brainstorm what you like to do and what skills you want to bring to the cause. We’d love your help.
What connections you have. Are you a nurse, teacher, education administrator, government employee, or non-profit professional who can reach out to organizations in your area for official support? Are you a union member who can let your union rep know about the bill? Do you have friends, neighbors, former colleagues, or family who might lend their connections to progress the bill?
If you can’t wait until September, email us at email@example.com to get involved now. We’re looking for two volunteers in this all-volunteer group for these two positions:
- Phonebanking Director. Recruit callers for potential supporters and make calls.
- Endorsement Director. Reach out to organizations to ask for their official support.
Join us to build on the momentum to make next session our session.
Want to spread the word? Forward this email or download the flyer.
In January and throughout the two-year legislative process, we’ll look to reach you to let you know when it’s go-time to contact your legislators. And in some cases, we’ll only need to let some of you know because we’ll need to urge just your rep or senator. Or you might miss our Facebook posts and miss out on a crucial timeframe for emailing or calling your legislators.
So we ask you to sign up for our email legislative alert system. That way you won’t have to be on the lookout on Facebook to know when it’s time to contact your legislators. The message will show up in your inbox.
And we need as many contacts as possible so we can contact our legislators at key times and get this bill passed this session. So share this message.
Workplace bullying is bad for business; it leads to decreased productivity, lower morale, increased absenteeism, and attrition.
Workplace bullying, by definition, happens at work. It interferes with the target’s confidence that her or his livelihood is assured. Broad societal economic crises threaten millions of workers at the same time and impersonally. Bullying is a laser-focused, personalized economic crisis affecting the target and her or his family. When bullies have control over the targets’ livelihood (as in 72% of situations), they have tremendous leverage to cause financial pain. Single parent workers are the most vulnerable.
Economic harms to businesses
Keeping a bully on staff is the equivalent of burning a big pile of money in the back of your building. But how much does it cost, exactly? The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) explains the hidden and not-so-hidden costs of allowing bullying in the workplace.
A simple formula for calculating costs
Turnover: Combined salaries of departed workers x 1.5
Opportunity lost: Lost revenue
Absenteeism: Number of missed hours x hourly rate
Presenteeism: Total salaries of checked out workers/2
Legal defense: Varies
Workers comp: Varies
For an employee paid $50,000 annually, the grand total could look like:
Opportunity lost: $30,000
Legal defense: $30,000
Workers comp: $2,000
An employer could pay a productive employee for three years instead of allowing the bullying to happen. Is pretending the bullying isn’t happening really the easy way out?
How to calculate the effect on your bottom line
Step 1: Determine who was targeted and for how long. Record the time period and all of the people involved with the bullying (both direct targets and those who witnessed the bullying).
Step 2: Calculate all costs involved:
- Turnover. Replacing top notch employees (those most often bullied in the job) costs money. “Turnover costs include employer contributions to COBRA insurance for the departed worker, expenses to announce the job opening, headhunter/recruiting firm fees to recruit worthy candidates, time spent by managers and staff to meet all candidates at meetings while getting no work done, hiring bonuses/incentives, moving expenses (?), and the harder-to-calculate lost production during the entire process that must be made up by coworkers,” according to the WBI website. To determine these costs, simply multiply the combined salaries of departed workers by 1.5 (a low-ball estimate). For example, for each target earning a $50,000 salary, the recruit and replace expenses are $75,000.
- Lost opportunity. Bullying targets pose a threat to their bullies through jealousy. Those talented targets have value. When targets leave, the company loses. “For instance, if that person was responsible for 5 clients that produced $1.4 million in revenue, that account and that money is lost to the employer,” says the WBI website. Add in all lost revenue.
- Absenteeism. Targets tend to stay away from work to preserve their mental health. They often use their paid time off (sick leave, vacations, and holidays) to do so. Add the number of hours per day targets and others miss work and multiply by the hourly rate. (For salaried exempt workers, divide the annual salary by 2020 to find the hourly rate of pay.)
- Presenteeism. Presenteeism describes employees coming to work sick to avoid reprimand for being out. While coming into work sick is difficult to attribute cost to, employees can make others sick or simply not add value to companies anymore by becoming disengaged. The disengagement can rub off on others and create a whole staff of checked out employees. Add up the salaries of the checked out employees and cut that number in half. That’s about how much the business loses to by paying unproductive employees.
- Litigation and settlements. Though there aren’t laws in Massachusetts to protect employees from workplace bullying, targets can still sue. And the business will still have to pay to respond, especially if there’s a discrimination claim.
- If the legal defense involves internal staff, multiply their hourly fees by the number of hours spent on the case.
- If the defense involves arbitration, multiply the hourly costs for all managers involved by the number of hours spent on the case.
- If the defense involves outside legal help, add on $30,000 per lawsuit. Make it $60,000 if the case goes to court. That’s conservative.
- If you settle to avoid huge legal costs, add on $30,000 at least.
- Workers comp and disability insurance claims. When you have a workers comp claim, your insurance costs go up. Add on more costs if you need to investigate the validity of a claim.
Step 3: If you’re the employer, hold the bully accountable. Talk to the bully and begin the warning process with the ultimate goal of termination if the behavior does not change.
If you’re the target, take the total estimate with cost breakdown to the highest-ranking employee you can find who does not side with the bully, who cares about the bottom line, and is honest. Ask that person for a 15 minute meeting to share ways to significantly cut costs. Present your value to the company. Attribute the losses to the bully. Ask that they be punished and that you be put in a safe position with no loss of pay or status. If you do not get your needs met, leave. “You were too good of an employee to have given your talent for so long only to be dealt with as you have been. Leave with your head held high. Your departure is their loss,” says the WBI website.
Economic harms to individuals
Controlling bullies can block transfers to a safe job, can make targets so miserable that they quit (constructive discharge), or impair target health to the extent they have to quit to stop the stress from campaign of interpersonal destruction. In the U.S., losing work means losing health insurance. No job. Get sicker. Lose the ability to seek medical help.
- Lost ability to be left alone to do the once-“loved job”
- Forced to transfer from loved job, often a punitive transfer (13%)
- Constructively discharged without reasonable cause (24%)
- Target quits to reverse decline in health and sanity (40%)
(from the Workplace Bullying Institute)
When we launched our tool to let you easily send a letter to your legislators about the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, we built templates around costs to businesses and your own story. Now we introduce a third template that lets your legislators understand the link between workplace bullying and suicide (“bullycide”).
Based on our recent blog posts showing the clear connection between workplace bullying and suicide, the template links to the research, explains the connection, and tells three stories of ethical, competent workplace bullying targets who took their lives after the downward spiral from workplace bullying.
Change begins with you. Change comes from you seeing a need and figuring out what you can do to improve the situation rather than waiting for someone else to do it, dictating to someone else to do it, or waiting for direction.
Our philosophy in this grassroots effort is simple: you’re in or you’ve come out of a place of disempowerment, and healing will help you take back the power. Healing can come from action, from knowing and proving what you’re capable of, from using your skills to make your ideas happen, from getting back to that competent and ethical employee you still are and deserve to be and not allowing an insecure bully to define you.
And great leadership to help make those ideas happen is about inspiring, not controlling. It’s about asking, not feeling entitled to dictate like a bully boss. It’s about empowering, not belittling or diminishing from insecurity. It’s about doing, not just telling or thinking. It’s about walking the walk with the philosophy that we need less masculine ways of working together, filled with petty competition for power and catering to egos that often slow or block progress, and more feminine ways of working together, through empowerment, collaboration, and nurturing that move the needle and change the culture.
With the goal in mind of steering the ship, we presented at our grassroots get-together what we’ve done, what strategy might work, and what we can do to get us there:
What we’ve done
We began this journey knowing that legislation generally takes years to pass. In Massachusetts, we’ve come a long way since 2010, when our group first introduced the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the State House (it’d been introduced before, but not with a group backing):
- We’ve gone from 13 sponsors in our first full two-year session to 39 in the second to 58 in the third. That’s nearly 1/3 of the entire State Legislature.
- We’ve built a base of 6,000 contacts (through Facebook, Twitter, our online petition, and our email alert system) we can reach out to at key points in the legislative process.
- We have 20 organizations on board, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
- We gained media attention and opposition, telling us that we have an audience.
We’re being heard. And we know what’s gotten us there. In addition to plain old hard work, we’re lucky enough here in Massachusetts to have our state capital in the most populated city to give advocates easy access to our legislators. We also have three bill co-coordinators who cover the bases: the model bill author David Yamada here in Massachusetts (even in Boston right near the State House), NAGE local 282 president Greg Sorozan contributing insight and persuasion from inside the State House through his lobbyists, and marketer Deb Falzoi providing strategy and skills.
In Rhode Island, coordinator Jessica Stensrud hit the ground running with getting a sponsor and bill number in her first session as coordinator. She’s making strong connections with progressive organizations in Rhode Island and building the masses in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island to further anti-workplace bullying efforts.
What strategy might work
In Massachusetts, the process to pass a bill into law goes like this: bills go through a committee, then move to the House, then Senate, then can go back to House or the Governor’s desk for signing (or get stopped at any point in the process – and most do). The anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill goes through the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and we had about a year left in the last session when the bill received a favorable reading from the committee. That’s the most time we’ve ever had left in the session at that point. We had more hope than ever that the bill would pass. Then the bill moved into the House for the major step, the Third Reading, a floor vote. The bill never made it to the floor vote, but we made the most progress we’ve ever made.
So we looked at how school bullying got passed. Like the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, the bill sat on legislators’ desks for years until a student suicide put urgency behind the issue. We’re looking for suicide from workplace bullying stories in Massachusetts to help legislators understand that workers are dying over this issue, and legislators have the power to take a stand against it. With stories, we can also help the media understand the urgency behind this topic. If you’re aware of a suicide from workplace bullying story in Massachusetts, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we can do to get us there
While we believe that suicide stories may help put the urgency behind this bill we all deserve, we know that building awareness of workplace bullying and the bill will help us reach more people who may be aware of these stories. Building our contact lists will help us stay connected with supporters, who can then reach out to others, creating a ripple effect.
Here’s what advocates have done so far to build our base:
- Created online tools. Built a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, blog, online petition, and email alert system to help advocates share content and capture data.
- Created videos and shared those videos with public access channels as Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
- Showed support at State House hearings by testifying and attending.
- Flyered at commuter rail lots, outside T stations, outside hospitals, and in parking lots of companies that allow workplace bullying.
- Produced an art display called “Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying” to educate and inspire (developed by advocate Torii Bottomley) and displayed at the State House and Worcester’s Union Station.
- Tabled at local events.
- Courageously shared their stories, both in writing for the website and on film.
- Reached out to organizations including unions, college and university student groups, and social justice groups for their official endorsement and possible lobbying.
- Submitted letters to the editor and commented on online articles.
- Talked at Democratic Town Committee meetings and reached out to both Democratic and Republican Town Committees.
- Hosted workshops.
- Ran in 5k races wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
- Held protests outside the state executive offices at One Ashburton Place, in Harvard Square, and in Davis Square.
- Created an easy tool to write to legislators in an incredibly simple way thanks to the separate suggestions of two advocates.
- Accessed the ability to blog on the Huffington Post.
- Connected with the IBEW union, who runs the digital billboard on I-93, about posting a message about the bill.
- Started Facebook live videos featuring video blogger Ty Weeks.
Building off these ideas, advocates brainstormed last night ways they could further contribute to the conversation and elevate the attention to workplace bullying in Massachusetts and Rhode Island:
- Hold a major event about workplace bullying, including a skit to show what workplace bullying is.
- Investigate citizen action groups in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to get their support or create one.
- Survey workers about their experiences.
- Contact radio stations about giving attention to workplace bullying.
- Find designers, photographers, and videographers to help create viral social media campaigns and/or art displays.
- Create viral videos using your own smartphone, and get people to create their own in the same style.
- Reach out to event planners about planning workplace bullying-related events.
- Fundraise for other organizations that can provide services for workplace bullying targets.
- Contact organizations about what they can do to help, including official endorsement.
- Blog to create more shareable content, more likes, and more people to reach to write their legislators.
- Create a parade float.
- Work with a college dance troupe to have a flash mob at a high-profile location in Boston.
- Pick a location, date, and time for a protest and ask our group to publicize it for additional volunteers.
- Contact suicide organizations for workplace bullying-related suicide stories.
- Get a group of people to run in a road race wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
- Make contacts for speaking at meetings and/or hosting workshops.
- Identify celebrities who could serve as spokespeople.
- Get a group of teachers, nurses, or other workers to go to the State House to speak with legislators as a group.
We’re creating an online tool for you to submit your own simple events to make empowering yourself even easier: protests, educational gatherings, brainstorming and planning meetings, running groups at road races, and groups to go to the State House, for example. Stay tuned.
We’ll pass this bill through the power of action. You have our support to run with an idea and even get our help. Do not wait for our permission, blessing, or someone else to take action. You have that power.
All we ask is that you share your action with us so you can help us inspire others and we can thank you for helping make history.
Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of targets by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.
Workplace bullying is often subtle. It is:
- Driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s)
- Initiated by bullies who choose targets, timing, place, and methods
- Escalated to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily through coercion.
- Undermining of legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself
- Domestic violence at work where the abuser is on the payroll.
A 2014 national survey by Zogby International and the Workplace Bullying Institute found that:
- 27% of workers have experienced workplace bullying
- 72% of employers who received complaints about workplace bullying either ignored the problem or made it worse
- 56% of workplace bullies are supervisors
Roughly 27% of workers — more than one million in Massachusetts — will experience workplace bullying during their work lives.
Bullies can be managers, supervisors, co-workers, or clients. The bully’s target is usually a capable, dedicated person. 80% of targets are women.
Common bullying behaviors
- False accusations of mistakes and errors
- Yelling, shouting, and screaming
- Exclusion and “the silent treatment”
- Withholding resources and information necessary to the job
- Behind-the-back sabotage and defamation
- Use of put-downs, insults, and excessively harsh criticism
- Unreasonably heavy work demands
- Spreading rumors and gossip
- Making offensive jokes or comments, verbally or in writing
- Discounting achievements and stealing credit for ideas or work
- Disciplining or threatening job loss without reason
- Taking away work or responsibility without cause
- Blocking requests for training, leave or promotion
- Pestering, spying, stalking, or tampering with personal belongings and equipment
What bullying is not
- Enforcing workplace policies and procedures
- Evaluating or measuring performance
- Providing constructive feedback
- Denying training or leave requests with good reason
- Discussing disciplinary action in private
- Dismissing, suspending, demoting, or reprimanding with just cause
Why bullies bully
- Sideline someone they feel is a threat (the target)
- Further their own agenda at the expense of others
- Deny responsibility for their own behavior
- Mask their lack of confidence and low self-esteem
Types of harm from which targets suffer
- Stress disorders of all types, including anxiety
- Shock, anger, frustration, and helplessness
- Clinical depression or suicidal thoughts
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of focus, confidence, morale, and productivity
- Eating too much or too little
- Stomach pain
- Impaired immune systems
- Symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Destructive impact on family and personal relationships
How you can help
So when will legislators say enough is enough?
We’ll change the rules when enough of us take a stand. School bullying legislation sat on desks until the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince forced attention on the issue. Our goal is to help legislators understand that workplace bullying can and does cause great workers to take their lives. Read about three highly competent, ethical workers who took their lives from workplace bullying.
Share your stories
If you know of an employee who committed suicide from workplace bullying, email email@example.com.
Change the rules
If you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators and demand that employers be held accountable for workplace bullying through legislation.
If you live outside Massachusetts, find out how to help end workplace bullying in your state.
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. But for those in the labor movement, the day represents justice for employees.
How Labor Day came to be
In her article “How Labor Day got its violent start,” USA Today reporter Susan Miller describes the holiday as a violent and pivotal moment in U.S. labor history. In the late 1800s, U.S. employees often worked 12 hour workdays under dangerous work conditions for little pay. Based on these poor work conditions, workers formed the nation’s first labor unions, which organized protests and strikes for better hours and pay.
In 1882, 10,000 New York City workers from New York’s Central Labor Union marched from City Hall to Union Square without pay, marking the first unofficial Labor Day parade. State governments recognized the day through legislation in the years that followed.
Twelve years later, in 1894, workers took an even bigger stand. A Chicago strike involving 250,000 workers in 25 states created a transportation catastrophe across the U.S.:
The community, located on the Southside of Chicago, was designed as a “company town” in which most of the factory workers who built Pullman cars [railroad sleeping cars] lived. When wage cuts hit, 4,000 workers staged a strike that pitted the American Railway Union vs. the Pullman Company and the federal government. The strike and boycott against trains triggered a nationwide transportation nightmare for freight and passenger traffic.
At its peak, the strike involved about 250,000 workers in more than 25 states. Riots broke out in many cities; President Grover Cleveland called in Army troops to break the strikers; more than a dozen people were killed in the unrest.
After the turbulence, Congress, at the urging of Cleveland in an overture to the labor movement, passed an act on June 28, 1894, making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.” It was now a legal holiday.
We’re still fighting
In the U.S., we’re still lacking healthy workplace conditions. We live in a country where bosses can bully their employees: harm the health of their subordinates through repeated mistreatment (false accusations, sabotage, and taking away responsibility without cause, for example) and get away with it – even though it demotivates employees and hurts organizations’ bottom lines.
So workplace bullying targets still fight for dignity and respect. We deserve to work for bosses who promote a sense of belonging, fair treatment, and empowerment.
Change the rules
If you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators and demand that employers be held accountable for workplace bullying through legislation.
If you live outside Massachusetts, find out how to help end workplace bullying in your state.