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Jul
2013
10

Massachusetts Becomes 6th State to Introduce Healthy Workplace Bill to Deal With Bullying Bosses

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In hopes of protecting workers from abusive bosses, Massachusetts recently became the sixth state to introduce a Healthy Workplace Bill.  Sponsored by House Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Katherine Clark, HB 1766 had its public hearing before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development late last month.  

According to a recent study by Career Builder, 35 percent of workers surveyed said they have felt bullied by their bosses at work, up from 27 percent the year before.  Sixteen percent of these workers said they have dealt with health related problems because of the bullying and 17 percent have quit their job to escape the situation.

The Healthy Workplace Bill would allow workers a legal method of dealing with abusive bosses.  It is currently in its third session before the Massachusetts legislature and has its roots in a 2003 public policy question from the Third District (Hampshire) which made the ballot on behalf of the efforts of a single bullied individual.  According to HealthyWorkplaceBIll.org, “The question asked if legislation to address workplace bullying should be crafted. The affirmative responses won a majority (68%) of the vote.”  The bill in its current form has 37 co-sponsors.

Rep. Ellen Story penned an op-ed for the Melrose Free Press addressing the importance of this legislation:

This bill (HB 1766) does three things. First, it provides legal relief for employees who have been deliberately subjected to abusive work environments. Secondly, it incentivizes employers to prevent and respond to abusive mistreatment of employees by allowing employers to minimize liability. And finally, it includes provisions that discourage weak or frivolous claims.

It is important to understand that this bill is not about everyday disagreements in the office, or someone having a bad day, or a boss providing directives, oversight and feedback. Instead, it seeks to address a regular pattern of health-harming mistreatment at a work environment in the form of verbal abuse, offensive and threatening behavior, or malicious work interference.

Some types of workplace abuse — like sexual harassment — are already illegal with established legal recourse and remedies. But in other cases, employees who have been subjected to abusive treatment cannot establish that the behavior was motivated by race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or age. As a result, they are unlikely to be protected by the law against such mistreatment.

Video uploaded to YouTube shows television coverage of the July 14, 2011 committee hearing.  It includes interviews with bullied teacher Deb Calidieri, Greg Sorozan the MA State Coordinator, and Rep. Coakley-Rivera.

Everyone deserves a workplace devoid of physical and psychological harm.  Bills like HB 1766 provide a pathway to retribution for those who suffer routine attacks.  With growing support, the legislation may come up for a floor vote in the Fall session.

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