Tagged: workplace abuse

An advocate’s story of being pushed out of a museum from workplace bullying

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Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

Derek worked in a museum as a Museum and Gallery Assistant. He considered his line manager a serial bully. “The bullying was covert. It took me five years to understand that I was being bullied at all,” he explained. “Bullying tactics ranged from a blame culture to micromanaging. The controlling bully got some type of kick from seeing his staff suffer and struggle under their large workloads. He would often come in late, do little work, panic, and them spread that panic onto others. He was lazy and manipulative, hiding his incompetence by taking credit for other people’s work yet putting their work down.”
The bullying made Derek feel stressed out, tired, and that his work was never good enough. He developed constant headaches.
Then the bullying escalated.
“Once I confronted the line manager on his behavior and made a formal grievance a few years later, his bullying escalated. The bully acted like the victim and called me a bully,” Derek said.
Even worse, the employer took the bully’s side. “Human Resources made a plan to get rid of me. I was called the troublemaker. Five other managers made up false statements and a well-being report about me. They claimed I made managers ill and had to be terminated. HR isolated me from my workplace for an ‘investigation’ — all dragged out over 18 months. A complete farce,” he added.
Meanwhile, Derek’s health only got worse. His doctor put him on antidepressants, which made him drowsy and bedridden. When on sick leave, his employer made up more lies and got rid of him.
The impact: the employer lost a competent staff member and kept an incompetent one who went on to bully others.
“Workplace bullying should be a crime,” said Derek. “It is mental violence that ruins lives and careers, and currently, managers are unaccountable in the workplace and can treat their staff like trash. This problem must change.”


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?

Four major ways you can help pass workplace anti-bullying legislation right now

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With less than half of the two-year legislative session left (we say two years, but it really ends over the summer), we’re pulling out all the stops to move the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013, forward. Here’s how you can help:

  • Meet with legislators. Rep. Paul Brodeur co-heads up the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. Call his office at 617-722-2013 this week, ask to speak with Rachel on his committee staff, and schedule a meet with Rep. Brodeur to meet with him to let him know why you want this bill to pass.
  • Post on Facebook walls. In the last two weeks alone, we’ve generated support from 12 legislators who didn’t have this bill on their radars. If you’re on Facebook, ask these legislators on their Facebook walls if they support this bill. Then email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com with a screenshot of their responses.
  • Make phone calls. Our phone calling campaign is well underway. We’re calling people most likely to identify themselves as workplace bullying targets in the most progressive towns in Massachusetts where we don’t already have legislative support. We have data and scripts — we just need your help. It’s easy and flexible. Email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com to help.
  • Research email addresses. We’re writing to K-12 teachers and college staff members about the bill. If you’re good with Excel and can research info, we’d love your help. Email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com to help.

Help make history by making Massachusetts the first state to make workplace bullying illegal for all workers.

It’s crunch time for passing workplace anti-bullying legislation

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With next summer’s legislative session end drawing near (roughly eight months left), it’s time to put pressure on our state legislators to take action on the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Here’s what’s left in the process:

  • The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development reads the bill favorably out of committee.
  • If approved, the bill moves to the House. State reps examine the bill for legality, constitutionality, and the duplication or contradiction of existing law. The bill then heads back to the House floor for debate and amendments.
  • If approved, the bill moves onto the Engrossment Committee at the Third Reading.
  • If approved, the Senate considers the bill through three readings and engrossment. If amended, the bill returns to the House for another vote. If the bill is rejected, three members of each branch draft a compromise bill.
  • The bill gets enacted by the legislature.
  • The bill gets signed by the governor. Ninety days after the governor’s signature, the bill becomes law.

That’s a lot of steps. And the bill’s been sitting with the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development since April.

We need your help

Imagine how state legislators might pay attention to the bill if many of us post on their walls in the window of a few days. Since legislators have been responsive to even one question about the bill on their Facebook walls (we’ve gained the support of nearly 10 of 152 legislators in the last two weeks alone using this method), we ask you to flood Facebook walls:

  1. Nudge the committee leaders to make this bill a priority. Post on the committee leaders’ Facebook walls, asking them if in light of workplace harassment in the news, they will make a priority to read the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013, favorably out of committee.

    Here are their Facebook accounts (and phone numbers if you’re not on Facebook):
    Senator Jason Lewis (D-5th Middlesex) and 617-722-1206
    Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-2nd Middlesex) and 617-722-1258
    Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose) and 617-722-2013
    Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield): 617-722-2240

  2. Write on the Facebook walls of those state legislators who’ve not yet expressed support of the bill this session. If you feel even more ambitious, post on these state legislators’ Facebook walls, asking them if they support the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013. Email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com with responses (screenshots if possible).

Urge friends, family, and colleagues to do the same so we can get this bill passed this session.

Thanks so much for your help. This bill would not have progressed without you.

How we deal with Harvey Weinstein’s world, the culture of abuse of power

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We’ve all seen our Facebook feeds flood with #metoo after the Harvey Weinstein allegations spread, showing the sad culture of sexual harassment and sexual assault far too many women (and some men) have endured. It’s a culture most of these sufferers have had to tolerate to succeed “because this entire town [culture] is built on the ugly principals that Harvey takes to a horrific extreme,” says Krista Vernoff, who co-runs ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (HollywoodReporter.com).

“If I didn’t work with people whose behavior I find reprehensible, I wouldn’t have a career…. We work within this culture so we can amass some power so we can have a voice. And those who don’t do that — those who shout and scream ‘this is not OK’ when they feel threatened or belittled (those women who DID speak out against Harvey BEFORE the New York Times piece) — they largely live on the fringes of this town. They don’t get the power. They don’t get the platform that the mainstream provides,” she says.

But there’s another side of the story so many of us have lived through — that few talk about. Once it came out that Harvey Weinstein’s assistants would disappear once he made his targets feel safe, leaving him alone to harass and assault, one former assistant spoke up. “She and other women at his company were also victims of Weinstein’s abuse – regularly exploited and manipulated, leaving some severely traumatized,” according to the Guardian. Female employees “were not willing collaborators and had also suffered through verbal abuse, vicious threats, and intimidation.”

“You think you’re going to get this illustrious career. You really want to believe you are going to succeed. He preys on this. He preys on young, vulnerable people he can manipulate…. You’re trapped. You’re tired. You’re vulnerable. He starts breaking you down. It just spirals out of control the minute you start to realize what’s going on. You start to feel like you’re going insane.”
— One of Weinstein’s former employees

Basically, his employee claims Weinstein is a serial abuser, and she lived in fear that he’d ruin her career if she pushed back, leaving her feeling isolated and powerless.

It’s all #toofamiliar.

They aren’t just fears of retaliation and isolation so many experience at work (though more than 85 percent of those harassed at work don’t ever report it according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC)). Retaliation and isolation are actually the norm. “Employers predominantly did nothing and actually retaliated against the target in 71 percent of cases who dared to report it,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute’s Gary and Ruth Namie in their book The Bully At Work.

Why So Many Workplaces Go Unchecked

We’re talking here about a culture that’s complicit — a culture where too many want to speak up but fear retaliation and loss of their jobs and careers. The highly competent, highly ethical workers assume everyone else has the same mindset as them until they encounter the less competent, less ethical power abusers who climb the ladder and use their power to serve their egos (rather than their organizations — what they’re getting paid for). It’s a clash of two opposing worldviews.

Those in power tolerate it. They don’t understand how power abusers create cultures where the best employees have less reason to care, so absenteeism and turnover go up, and productivity and innovation go down — along with their potential bottom lines.

How we change the culture

Step one in changing the culture was sexual harassment law. If you speak with women who worked before the law improved the culture, they’ll tell you how much safer workplaces are now for women.

Step two will be passing the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill to reduce the number of unsafe workplaces where workplace abuse is tolerated.

As we learned from #metoo, the culture of abuse still exists even with laws to protect us from abuse. But the collective voices saying enough is enough resulted in the #HowIWillChange response, putting the responsibility for change on those in power.

So here’s step three. Even with accountability through law, the responsibility will fall with those in power. It’s about those in power “being willing to stand up and say they won’t tolerate this,” says Amy Oppenheimer, an attorney who specializes in workplace harassment cases according to Bustle.com reporter Lauren Holter. It will fall on the shoulders of business owners and leaders all the way up the ladder to create healthy cultures and judges to enforce the Healthy Workplace Bill once it passes.

It’s time to blow our whistles even louder. It’s time to hold employers accountable. Enough is enough.

An effective and easy way to reach your state legislators about making workplace bullying illegal

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Posting about the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013, on state legislators’ Facebook pages has proven extremely effective because of the public nature of it. (Legislators see your posts directly without your messages getting buried and want to be publicly responsive to get votes in their re-elections.)

So we need your help.

Post on your own legislators’ walls if they haven’t yet supported the bill (or post on all of their walls if you’d like — many will respond in this case even if you’re not in their districts, and others will learn about the bill, too).

Let’s get a buzz going in the State House.

Get everything you need to make this process easy »

Live near a college campus? Spread the word about workplace bullying.

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Lately we’ve heard from numerous former college and university employees about the abuse they endured on the job and the fear of speaking up from the employees left behind. Higher education is a breeding ground for workplace bullying for numerous reasons including:

  • Institutions don’t have to care about good management. When tuition rolls in regardless of how ineffective management is (similar to tax dollars in government), poor leadership doesn’t affect a college or university’s bottom line like it would a for-profit business.
  • There are many do-gooders. People who love power and control — bullies — love industries full of do-gooders, people who care about the organization’s mission and do good work in a cooperative way. Bullies see an opportunity to manipulate and serve their egos. It’s no surprise then that bullying is so common in schools, hospitals, and non-profits.

While many employees in higher ed suffer in silence, they can still feel validated and help pass legislation behind the scenes.

Help get the word out about the bill. Flyer campuses throughout Massachusetts before winter hits.

Download the flyer »
(If you look for it later, you can find it on our website.)

A police officer’s story of workplace abuse. And she needs our help.


Officer James became a police officer in 1994. She passed a civil service exam, became a recruit, worked hard in the police academy, and then proudly became a police officer, a woman embarking on a male-dominated, dangerous career. A single parent, her then six-year old daughter made her promise to come home to her safe and sound. Officer James understood her obligation to her daughter and her commitment to the career she chose. Her district was changing, becoming more inclusive and diverse. The police department adopted a different model of policing: “Community Policing.” They wanted to develop partnerships and have better relationships with all community members. Officer James was one of the officers assigned to carry out that mission. She was recognized for the work she did as a community service officer and then became a juvenile officer. She was a liaison between the police department and community – school officials, clergy, business-owners, social service agencies, and programs. She was involved in roundtable discussions, interventions, mediation, individual educational plans for students at risk, court advocacy for juvenile delinquents, and relationship building with probation. She grew both personally and professionally by becoming certified to mediate and earning a masters degree in criminal justice from Boston University.

According to Officer James, she worked full duty for six months after erroneously being charged with Absent Without Leave (AWOL) in November 2011, with two months of her wages taken without any written notice while rehabilitating an approved, job-related injury. In June 2012, her commander showed up on her night shift at 1am (his shift begins at 8:00 am) to suspend her for an erroneous charge of being AWOL while out on an approved, job related injury (later expunged from her record). After being told it would be a one-way conversation, her commander attempted to engage in conversation with her with no union representative present. Her commander ordered her to turnover her equipment in his office, and she was compliant per her training. While safely removing the loaded firearm from her retention holster, on the gun belt she wore attached to her and with out any verbal warning to her or my shift lieutenant, the commander wrangled the gun out of the retention holster. After the suspension was served, she filed a required Incident Report (later approved and categorized as Sexual Assault for possible purposes of concealment). There was no proper response to this incident. She felt unsafe and afraid of retaliation of any kind, left in limbo with no status, no police identification, and not charged with abandonment of her job or being AWOL. The suspension was rescinded, and the AWOL was expunged from her record.

What’s happened since

One year later:
• After being put in numerous processes, she was eventually given 11 charges including untruthfulness and filing a false-report. 11 charges but NOT FIRED.
• An Investigation started for a rule violation that she was not officially accused of until July 2013.
• She was not allowed to take her annual drug test and was then charged with refusing.
• Two charges were added to the 11 charges. 13 charges but NOT FIRED.

Two years later:
• She was medically cleared to return to work.
• She remained in limbo for nearly three months.
• A doctor cleared her for light duty. She never worked a shift.
• She was put on Administrative Leave with Pay after being in limbo.

Three years later:
• Officer James was fired through a notice of termination placed in the hallway of a family member.

Officer James needs our support. Join us at Suffolk Superior Court, 3 Pemberton Square, Room 916, Boston, MA on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 2pm.