We’ve recently received word that the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development gave the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013, a favorable report. Since the bill is a Senate Bill this session, the bill moves to the Senate instead of the House, where it landed in past sessions.
Five months left
We only have five months remaining in this two-year session, which means that while we wait to see where in the Senate the bill lands, we encourage you to put the pressure on your State Senators only (once the bill moves to the House, we’ll put pressure on our State Reps again):
- Call your State Senator and ask whoever answers the phone for the email address of the scheduler so you can schedule a meeting with your State Senator.
- Email the scheduler to setup a meeting either in local office hours or at the State House as soon as possible. This step is huge. Some of you have asked why we’re not doing more at the State House as a group. Well, the answer is simple: we’re all volunteers trying to push this bill outside of our full-time jobs and other responsibilities, and since our legislators care about getting their constituents’ votes in the next election, it’s most effective for us individually to meet with our own legislators one-on-one when it’s convenient for us. We’ve learned major insights from advocates after meetings with their legislators. Showing up as a group to legislators’ offices without an appointment simply isn’t as effective.
- Bring the flyers listed on this page with you to your meeting and summarize your workplace bullying story with your State Senator. Keep your State Senator armed with the facts, and ask him or her to put urgency on Senate leadership to bring the bill to a floor vote.
- Pass insights about their concerns onto us. Email us at email@example.com.
It’s up to each of us to make time to ensure protections for employees who will go through the torment at work we went through. We need your help to create a groundswell throughout every part of the Commonwealth to say STOP to bullying at work. For those who’ve met with your legislators, we thank you and ask you to nudge them again while the bill is on their turf.
Regardless of which side of the gun control debate we’re on, we can agree on one thing: at the root of mass shootings is either mental illness, abuse, or both.
February 14, 2018
“[Attorney Jim] Lewis said Cruz was a loner and ‘a little quirky,’ and the family hosting him knew there had been some disciplinary problems and fights, but Cruz had never expressed any discontent toward his former teachers or classmates. ‘He was a smaller kid and (there’s) some indication there might have been some bullying going on….’ the lawyer said.”
— Eliott C. McLaughlin and Madison Park, CNN
June 12, 2016
“Brice Miller went to Southport Middle School and St. Lucie West Centennial High School with Mateen and described him as non-violent. He also said Mateen was bullied. ‘You could tell it hurt his feelings,’ Miller said, ‘but he would laugh it off…. He was just dorky…. He was disliked, but he always tried to get you to laugh.”
— Rene Stutzman and Jessica Inman, Orlando Sentinel
December 14, 2012
“Adam Lanza was apparently bullied and beaten when he was enrolled at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where he shot and killed 20 students and six staffers, the New York Daily News reports.…”
— Andrew Averill, The Christian Science Monitor
April 16, 2007
“Long before he killed 32 people in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Seung-Hui Cho was bullied by fellow high school students who mocked his shyness and the strange way he talked, former classmates said.”
— NBC News
Bulling leads to isolation
We know bullying often leads to isolation. Here’s a bully’s typical recipe:
- The bully initially repeatedly reprimands the better than average target for trivial matters and those that would be described completely differently by the target. The bully repeatedly puts the target down.
- The bully convinces others that the target is incompetent, so others can begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse.
- The bully drives the target to go to report the problem to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources and then escalates the bully behavior.
- The bully makes their tactics so outrageous that the target’s support system (family and friends) doesn’t believe the target and can’t offer advice. Then these family and friends become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved.
- The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide. Targets try everything and then give up hope. If not stopped, the prolonged abuse causes depression and often suicidal thoughts. “Targets who sense that they’re about to be fired and cannot cope with that eventuality are vulnerable to suicide,” adds reporter Natasha Wallace in her article “Suicide, When Related to Workplace Bullying.”
The connection to workplaces
We can see the direct connection between bullying and violence (both homicide and suicide). The Center for Disease Control classified workplace violence as a national epidemic, and in the late 90s, the U.S. Department of Justice called the workplace “the most dangerous place to be in America.”
- In the U.S., an average of 15 to 20 people are murdered weekly while at work (according to Andrew Faas in The Bully’s Trap).
- Homicide in the workplace is the fastest-growing form of murder (U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).
- One million people are physically assaulted in the workplace every year. That number increases when verbal violence is factored (according to Faas).
If we as a culture take a serious look at bullying, we can reduce incidences of violence. When will enough be enough?
We have word that Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chairs Jason Lewis and Paul Brodeur are currently in intense conversation on the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill and are optimistic of it moving onto next steps: the Senate. The chairs are still accepting written testimony on this bill this week.
(The committee has until February 10 to make decisions on all bills put before them, so we’re asking you to act this week while they’re discussing the bill so there’s time for them to act.)
Who influences these two legislators the most?
Our state legislators’ voices.
Who influences our state legislators?
The committee heads need to know that your OWN legislators support them moving the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013, forward. And our voices have the most impact on our own legislators because they want our votes in the next election.
Senator Lewis and Rep. Brodeur also want to hear from us directly.
With only six months left in the two-year legislative session, they need to know THIS WEEK that our collective voices are louder than business opposition before time runs out to complete the rest of the steps to turn this bill into law. We need as many voices as possible THIS WEEK while they’re discussing the bill to send a clear message to our state legislators that workplace bullying destroys lives — and we want change.
Here’s what you can do to help move this bill forward at this stage:
- Call your State Rep AND State Senator to ask them to ask Senator Lewis and Rep. Brodeur to move forward the bill, now Senate Bill 1013, an act relative to workplace bullying and mobbing without regard to protected class.
- Draft your story in one page (see tips below).
- Email your story to your legislator using our easy tool or email. If you email, ask your legislator to cc you on the email he or she sends to Senator Lewis or Rep. Brodeur or to forward you a copy afterwards. Then forward that message to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we know who supports the bill.
- Repeat the process for calling AND emailing for Senator Jason Lewis and Rep. Paul Brodeur.
How to draft your story:
Stick to the facts and keep it brief. Write up a one-page summary of what happened to you or someone you know:
- In one sentence, open with who you are, where you worked, and what you did for work.
- In one paragraph, paint a picture of your experience using facts (briefly describing how you felt as professionally as possible while still using emotional detail).
- In one paragraph, describe how your employer reacted (or didn’t react). Did they ignore you? Retaliate?
- In one paragraph, describe the toll your experience took on you, especially your physical and financial health. Did you experience anxiety, loss of sleep, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder? How much did you lose in therapy costs, medication costs? Did your experience cost you a marriage, a home loss, high medical expenses, legal expenses?
- In one paragraph, describe how the experience left an impact on the organization. Roughly how many sick days did you need to take? Emphasize that costs are also associated with hiring and training a replacement employee.
We thank you again for your work on making employee rights a priority in Massachusetts. Please forward this message to others who may have experienced workplace bullying or who know your story and can tell it from a witness standpoint in support of the bill.
Photo from QZ.com
Just a few years ago, I worked for a small business. I partnered with a man who started with more pay than I was originally offered, even though I had more experience and more education.
Jockeying for power was the name of the game in the “partnership.” He needed to be seen as more powerful, even though he most often had no updates at staff meetings. His exhausting know-it-all attitude came out even when I had more experience on a subject, as if I were invisible or not good enough. He fought for an office twice the size of others available despite my vocalizing concerns of equal respect and treatment in a male-dominated industry. He needed to be top dog even though he didn’t earn it. And he manipulated others into believing I was the problem.
The partner was a family member.
I ended up leaving the job. Some family members chalked it up to a personality conflict. Some took sides without ever hearing my side. And not a single shareholder stepped in to investigate the issue even though they were all aware of the problem.
I wasn’t entirely shocked. Genders had roles growing up in my family. Girls were the cleaners at the holidays, while boys were left with the men to relax. Mothers saw their daughters as extensions of their own images, dishing out harsher criticism and expectations to them. When I did stand up for myself, I was dismissed and belittled as “sensitive” or “emotional” — told to “relax” or “calm down” when I advocated for myself. The devaluing simply extended into adulthood.
It seemed that devaluing women was so deeply ingrained that my path was set in place before I even set foot in the door of the business. If you’ve been abused at work, these details are all too familiar.
When I began working after college, I saw similar patterns — patterns where it was easy to push around the harder workers, often women, the ones who wanted the organization to be great. I saw know-it-alls with lousy work ethics get ahead, using their charm and egos rather than track records to climb the ladder. I saw outright sabotage, false accusations, verbal abuse, and manipulation — and zero accountability when people spoke up. The rules were patriarchal — rooted in competition rather than cooperation. At every turn, I wondered if paths would be different if we swapped the genders of targets.
Let’s change the law
Make no mistake: men can be abused at work just as they can experience sexual harassment or domestic violence. But with 66 percent of targets being women, 53 percent of targets being Hispanic, African American, or Asian (but only 23 percent of the U.S. population combined according to Census.gov), and 61 percent of bullies being bosses according to a 2017 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) survey, workplace abuse is a perfectly legal form of sexism, racism, and classism — other flavors of abuse of power like sexual harassment — that prevent people from not only gaining power but also from getting basic dignity and respect.
The numbers are significant. With 38 percent of the U.S. population affected by workplace bullying according to the WBI and 327 million people in the U.S. according to Census.gov, 124 million in the U.S. have either experienced or witnessed workplace bullying. That’s the equivalent of the populations of California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois combined. If we replaced the populations of just California, Texas, and Illinois with women only, we’d find the number of women affected by workplace abuse. That’s staggering.
For the most part, only those in protected classes — who can prove their harassment is from being in that protected class — have law on their side. But other laws don’t operate that way: behavior is what matters. Rapists and murderers aren’t only held accountable if their victims fit into a social bucket. But a workplace abuser can get away with severe abuse if gender and/or race, for example, are in common with the target, leaving the target on a slippery slope to suicidal thoughts — even though it’s the behavior that matters.
You may wonder if law will do any good if #metoo flooded our Facebook feeds despite having sexual harassment law. But ask any woman who worked pre-1964 what working conditions were like, and you’ll hear about how the needle has moved on sexual harassment in the workplace. No law completely rids our culture of a problem we realize we need to regulate because humans don’t have accountability without them.
In Massachusetts, we can do something about it, and we can do it now. If passed, the Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013 will hold employers accountable for bullying employees in Massachusetts by creating a legal claim for targets who can prove they were subjected to malicious, health-harming behavior and providing defenses for employers who act preventively and responsively to discourage frivolous claims.
The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development — where the bill’s been sitting for eight months — has until February 10 to say yes or no to all bills put before them. Calling your own legislators in Massachusetts asking them to ask the heads of that committee to move the bill to the Senate will help tremendously.
If it moves forward, the bill then moves to the Senate and has until the summer to pass into law.
More than 30 other state legislatures have introduced workplace anti-bullying legislation.
Let’s create legal protections for everyone suffering from abuse at work. It’s time.
#metoo has left us wondering: what do we do next to make workplaces safer?
The answer: make abuse at work illegal. While sexual harassment is one way (mostly) women get kept down, there’s a whole host of other behaviors that keep down anyone whose competence threatens a boss or co-worker. Workplace bullying — verbal abuse, sabotage, and other behaviors aimed to humiliate — can become illegal — if we make it happen.
By February 10, all committees must make decision on the bills in their committees. So we have exactly one month to continue to ask these legislators to move the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development:
- Our state reps to ask in writing Rep. Paul Brodeur
- Our state senators to ask in writing Senator Jason Lewis to do the same.
The last thing we want is for the committee to not move the bill forward because business owners’ voices were louder. Then we have until the summer to move this bill through the Senate and House. (We’ll need your help then, too. More about that later.)
Here’s our game plan:
- Spread the word about the bill and specifically ask people to ask their state legislators to write to Rep. Brodeur or Senator Lewis to move the bill forward.
- Forward this message to family, friends, and colleagues, and share this post on Facebook and Twitter.
- Email us at email@example.com with your legislators’ response (even no response). Soon we’ll publicize who’s NOT supported this bill as a way to sway voter opinion and to urge legislators to take action (remember: legislators want to win their next election and want your vote. Post on social media your legislator support or lack of it based on the actions of your legislators on this bill.)
If you haven’t yet reached out to your legislators, please do so before February 10:
- Email your legislators. Use this easy tool to send your letter.
- Call your legislator’s office to make sure they received your email. This step is important. Legislators receive so many emails, and many get buried in their email boxes. Call to make sure they received it and ask them again to ask the legislator that you request he or she write a letter to Rep. Paul Brodeur or Senator Jason Lewis asking for Senate Bill 1013 to move forward.
- Repeat the process for the second legislator.
We thank you for your support. Rep. Brodeur’s staff reported that they get the most calls in support of this bill — thanks to your action.
For more information on workplace anti-bullying legislation, read these recent articles:
To end sexual harassment on the job, end workplace bullying (LA Times, November 16, 2017)
Workplace bullying remains in the shadows (Boston Globe, December 30, 2017)
Workplace bullying affects nearly half of US workers. It’s time we did something about it. (Truthout, January 11, 2018)
The #metoo campaign about sexual harassment is about abuse of power at its root, and sexual harassment is only one tool for those in power at work to abuse it.
Boston Globe Reporter Beth Teitell put the spotlight on the umbrella of workplace bullying and its status in the Massachusetts legislature in her December 30, 2017 article “Workplace bullying remains in the shadows.”
- Boston Magazine: Spencer Buell, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Jamie Ducharme, email@example.com
- Boston.com: Dialynn Dwyer, Dialynn.Dwyer@boston.com @dia_dwyer
- Boston Metro: Kristin Toussaint, firstname.lastname@example.org @kristindakota
- WBUR: email@example.com
- WGBH: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Atlantic: Sophie Gilbert, email@example.com
With the growing protest of sexual harassment in Hollywood, a lot of us are left wondering: why are we ignoring that when abuse of power isn’t of a sexual nature, countless competent and ambitious workers like Ann Curry get pushed out of their jobs? Why are only those in protected classes (gender, race/ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, age, sexual orientation, individuals with disabilities, and veteran status) accounted for under law when general workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment? Why should someone choose between their health or a paycheck because their competence — rather than their protected class — threatens the power abuser?
While #metoo exposed that law can’t protect everyone when they’re forced to choose between speaking up or preserving their jobs, sexual harassment law certainly moved the needle on the norms of sexual abuse in the workplace. But when there are no laws to protect those suffering from verbal abuse, threatening, intimidating, or humiliating behaviors, and sabotage, CEOs have no accountability to pay attention to the health of their workplace cultures. So employees believe nothing will be done when they report abusive behavior, and rightfully so.
We all deserve protections from abuse at work, regardless of the form and who we are. “Otherwise, workplaces will continue to be used by narcissistic individuals as personal playgrounds for predatory actions, which can negatively impact individuals, organizations, companies, and societies,” says S. L. Young in his Huffington Post article “Harassment goes beyond sex, women, Hollywood, and politics.”
How do we do more to prevent abuse of power in the workplace? We demand change. The workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill is stuck in the State House, and we need your help to move it forward.