For the first time since the Harvey Weinstein scandal became public, a major publication made the connection between sexual harassment and workplace bullying, even noting the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill and its author David Yamada.
This article’s a big deal.
In today’s LA Times article “To end sexual harassment on the job, end workplace bullying,” Reporter David Lieberman says:
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.
Abused employees would be able to go to court if states or Congress adopted laws like the Healthy Workplace Bill, proposed by Suffolk University Law School professor David Yamada. He found that U.S. courts rarely sided with victims of bullying who sought relief under employment laws that already prohibit “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Taking a page from the standards for a hostile work environment established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Healthy Workplace Bill would empower employees to sue companies for actions that “a reasonable person would find abusive, based on the severity, nature or frequency of the conduct.”
The timing couldn’t be better. With just eight months left in the two-year legislative session in Massachusetts, meaning we’ve already reached the halfway point, the bill is stuck in the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development led by Rep. Paul Brodeur. Retailers and business organizations have voiced their opposition. We need a stronger voice. We need a big push to legislators asking them to ask Rep. Brodeur to move the bill, Senate Bill 1013, an act regarding workplace bullying and mobbing without regard to protected class, favorably out of committee.
With only eight months left in the two-year legislative session and more retailers and business organizations opposing the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013 (an act against workplace bullying and mobbing), we need to act quickly.
Your action is vital to progress the bill. Here’s how it works: Legislators want to act based on what their own constituents want so they can get re-elected and keep working for you. Telling them what you want and their taking action matters for both your empowerment and your future vote. And the more of us who contact our legislators asking them to write to Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Paul Brodeur, the more urgency the committee will feel to move the bill to the Senate. We need as many people as possible to make this urgency happen.
We thank those who’ve setup meetings with your state legislators to tell them your personal stories and ask them to ask Rep. Paul Brodeur to move the bill out of committee. (If you haven’t yet, you can do so by calling your State Rep and State Senator. Bring your story with you on one page — see guidance below.) It’s by far the most effective way to push the bill forward. If you can’t meet with your legislators, you can still help.
Another way you can help
What legislators need is our stories and to write letters to Rep. Paul Brodeur to ask him to move the bill to the Senate with your stories attached. If you absolutely cannot meet with your legislators, even in local office hours, we ask you to write to them and followup call (you can use this template to bring your story with you to their office hours and email to your legislator beforehand, too):
- 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.
- Email your legislators. Use this easy tool to send your letter. Follow the instructions and copy and paste it into the fourth tab.
- 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 asking for Senate Bill 1013 to move forward.
- Repeat the process for the second legislator.
You may also use the first tab of the easy tool to draft your story and send it off. (We ask you to still followup call.)
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.
With only eight months left in the two-year legislative session, we met with State House legislative staff this week. They reported that citizens most frequently call in support of the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. For that great news, we thank you.
That hard work has prompted increased opposition from retailers and business organizations. So it’s time to make a strong push for making targeted, malicious, health-endangering mistreatment of a worker by a supervisor or co-worker illegal in Massachusetts. The workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill will give severely bullied workers a right to seek damages. No longer will abused workers be left without legal protections if the bill passes.
How you can help
Legislative staff tell us the singlemost effective act we can take to stand up to business opposition is:
Scheduling a meeting with our State Rep and State Senator (they have local office hours), tell them our stories, and (here’s the crucial part) ask them to ask Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chair Paul Brodeur to push the Senate Bill 1013 forward. We ask you to make the call to schedule your appointment in the next week. Even three or four advocates taking action on this step will make a huge difference in standing up for what’s right and pushing the bill forward.
(If you cannot meet with your legislators, call them, tell them your story, and ask them to ask Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chair Paul Brodeur to push the Senate Bill 1013 forward.)
A template for your personal story
Who you are, where you worked, and what you did (one sentence). Use facts to paint a picture of your experience, briefly describing how you felt as professionally as possible while still using emotional detail.
My employer reacted by:
My experience has impacted me by:
In addition, the experience left an impact on the organization:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
Help make history by making Massachusetts the first state to make workplace bullying illegal for all workers.
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:
- 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
- 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 email@example.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.
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.
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.