Mass. State Rep. Ellen Story, a staunch ally of the anti-abuse campaign for the workplace, has introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) for the 2015-16 legislative session. Rep. Story has been involved since 2004! Her latest contribution is House bill H 1771. This is the full version of the bill that carries employer liability for enabling and maintaining a toxic work environment in which employees can be subjected to health-harming abusive conduct.
Mass. joins New York State making only two states with current bills that hold employers accountable for the psychological safety of the work environment. Of course, the HWB grants good employers an escape from vicarious liability when they voluntarily take steps to prevent and correct abusive conduct. But toothless bills gutted by the state chambers of commerce (and others in the business lobby) share one common element — no employer liability.
The very effective WBI affiliates, theMA Healthy Workplace Advocates, were able to secure 57 co-sponsors. In years past, the group, working in concert with organized labor, NAGE, orchestrated successful committee hearings. Perhaps this year after another hearing, H 1771 can move to a floor vote and beyond … to the Governor’s desk.
We salute our Massachusetts volunteer State Coordinators and Citizen Lobbyists. Stay tuned.
On March 3, 2015, the Utah state House of Representatives passed HB 216 on a floor vote of 58-14 to move to the state Senate for consideration. HB 216, sponsored by Rep. Keven Stratton of Orem, adopts the employee training mandate first made law by California in 2014. However, the Utah bill is an improvement because it specifies what should be included in the training about abusive conduct. The California law gave no guidance to employers. And employers without guidance will skirt the intent of the law to deliver the minimum in a way that is cheapest for them (an online brief overview).
Utah’s HB 216:
• applies to state agencies only
• mandates training of employees AND supervisors
• training to include description and “ramifications” of abusive conduct
• to include resources available to abused workers
• and to cover the internal grievance process details (WBI: to hold abuser accountable)
• also training in Ethical Conduct
• also training in Organizational Leadership with Integrity
• training every other year
• State may allocate funds to develop policies for agencies
• State may support development of agency training
HB 216 is not the full Healthy Workplace Bill, but it is the strongest step that any state has taken to date. WBI State Coordinator Denise Halverson has been involved in every stage of the bill’s evolution and deserves much credit.
House Delegates Keam and Hope introduced HB 2089 in Jan. 2015, making Virginia the 28th state to introduce the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. We thank the CWA Local 222, Annandale, VA, for their support.
The WBI State Coordinators are hard at work meeting with legislative sponsors for the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Here’s a status report. As of Feb. 10 …
• North Dakota became the 27th state to introduce something — HB 1428. That something is a simple paragraph declaring that public sector employers have to address harassment, ostensibly not just the currently illegal variety of discriminatory misdeeds. The bill cleared the House on a 91-0 vote and is on to the Senate for consideration. Visit the ND State page at the HWB website for details.
• Utah’s HB 216 is the boldest of the small step bills to date. It requires employers to address the HWB’s definition of health-harming abusive conduct by providing annual training. Better than California’s recently implemented training mandate, Utah would require coverage of not only the definition of the phenomenon, but its effect on worker’s health and a description of what remedies the employer has in effect. Visit the UT State page at the HWB website for details.
• We saved the best for last. New York returns to lead the nation with a complete Healthy Workplace Bill in the Assembly — A 3250. The bill provides legal redress for employees harmed by abusive conduct. It rewards proactive employers who voluntarily protect workers with adequate policies and procedures with a litigation prevention mechanism. It defines the phenomenon and applies to employers in both private and public sectors. Our State Coordinators continue to set the highest bar for comparison. A 3250 has 80 co-sponsors. The Senate companion bill is in the works. Visit the NY State page at the HWB website for details.
Stay tuned for major developments as additional states come on board.
North Dakota lawmakers, at the urging of the largest public sector union (North Dakota United) in the right-to-work state, introduced HB 1428. The bill simply states that public sector employers must address harassment (implying that the harassment is both unlawful (based on membership in protected status groups) and lawful (ostensibly workplace bullying)). The one-paragraph bill, sponsored by 8 House Representatives and 4 Senators sailed through its House committee and won the floor vote in the House 91-0. It is on its way to the Senate.
Connecticut state Sen. Gary Winfield and Rep. Victor Cuevas introduced Senate Bill 432. Though they did not adopt the language contained in the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, SB 432 calls for the creation of an “advisory board” to “explore and address” instances of workplace bullying.
Utah state Rep. Keven Stratton introduced a training-based mandate version of the Healthy Workplace Bill. It would require annual education by employers on the topic of abusive conduct — its definition, effects, and remedies.
New York Healthy Workplace Advocates, lobbyists for the Healthy Workplace Bill, announce that 80 Assemblymembers started the new 2015-16 legislative session by re-committing themselves to the anti-bullying campaign for the workplace. The bill is AB 3250.
In 2015, California law mandates that supervisors in all firms with 50 or more employees receive “training” in abusive conduct. The term “abusive conduct” was lifted from the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill language we have been using since 2003 to introduce and pass a comprehensive law against workplace bullying.
Training done right can overcome deficits in skills. Training is the wrong tool to reverse immoral conduct. But training is useful to make everyone aware that misconduct is happening.
Training backfires when it teaches there is a problem and the organization has no procedures in place to deal with the misconduct. It’s clear that only a small (5.5%) of American employers have the will to actually prevent or correct health-harming abusive conduct. No effective state laws have yet been enacted to compel employer compliance. So, few have good policies. Even fewer have the voluntary desire to stop it. No laws; no policies; lazy employers.
When supervisors get trained, in the best possible way — live, interactive, Q&A sessions, employee expectations will rise. Everyone will wonder when and how the bullying will end in their workplace. If employer actions are limited to supervisor training, very little will be done. Employee distrust and disengagement will follow.
Another concern is how will the training be conducted? The new law based on AB 2053, adds training in abusive conduct (which is currently legal) to the requisite training in sexual harassment (which is illegal). The mix will not only confuse employees; most employers don’t know the difference. Workers will be expecting policies for bullying to apply that don’t exist.
It is alarming to find that many employers post online slide shows to educate workers about sexual harassment. It’s a joke that no one takes seriously. A slide show with little content and no interaction. Really, how lazy can employers be. It’s called “compliance.” Given the complexity of bullying’s effect on the entire workplace and the fact that current sex harass trainers and conflict resolution professionals don’t understand bullying, we fear for the future.
In other words, disembodied training can do more harm than good. Beware of premature awareness!
Training should be preceded by a commitment by leadership to stopping bullying. Then, organizational prevalence should be determined. Next, a code or policy or set of behavioral expectations must be created along with procedures to correct confirmed violators. Then, and only then, should training be undertaken.
This is the official home of the national grassroots legislative movement to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. The HWB is the boldest proposed change to U.S. employment law in 40 years. We are a volunteer network of citizen activists working since 2002 in many states to pass the bill into law.
Current discrimination and harassment laws rarely address bullying concerns. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination, but is still legal in the U.S. People deserve more protection against arbitrary cruelty that has nothing to do with work.
"Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little." -- Eleanor Roosevelt