Posts Tagged ‘Katherine Clark’

Editorial by MA anti-bullying bill sponsor Sen. Clark

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Sen. Katherine Clark

Bullying in the workplace. By Sen. Katherine Clark, Boston Globe, March 8, 2011

Headlines from around the country have brought the issue of abusive work environments also known as workplace bullying to light. The widespread and generally unaddressed problem of workplace bullying is often not understood despite studies that show nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts residents report experiencing some type of workplace bullying at one point in their working careers.

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated health harming mistreatment at a work environment in the form of verbal abuse, offensive and threatening behavior, or work interference and sabotage.  It happens when a bully uses a position of control to harm a coworker or employee.  Dr. Gary Namie states that 72 percent of workplace bullying occurs against a subordinate and 68 percent of the time it involves people of the same gender.

Workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment are four times more prevalent than sexual harassment.  These incidents not only hurt the victim, but can also negatively impact the entire workplace by dividing groups of coworkers, reducing employee productivity and morale, causing higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increasing medical and workers’ compensation claims.

During this difficult and uncertain economic climate, workplace bullying can be even more dangerous. High unemployment rates make it risky to leave jobs and victims of bullying are many times forced to stay in abusive situations. Single parent workers are particularly vulnerable targets who face significant financial risk if forced to leave a job on which they rely to pay bills. A 1998 study at University of North Carolina demonstrated that out of 775 targets of workplace aggression, 28 percent lost time at work avoiding the situation, 22 percent decreased their effort, and 12 percent changed jobs.

The cost of bullying at a workplace also takes a significant toll on the health of victims.  Consistent bullying has been shown to cause stress disorders, clinical depression, cardiovascular disease, and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Many times victims of workplace bullying can also have strained relationships with family and friends as a result of abusive work environments.  These victims deserve to have protections in place to ensure a healthy and safe work environment.

Massachusetts currently has laws on the books to protect against sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and hostile work environments, but to take legal action the victim must be a member of a protected class that includes gender, race, disability, ethnicity, and religion.

I have cosponsored legislation that aims to end widespread workplace bullying. The bill makes it unlawful to subject an employee to an abusive work environment and protects victims of workplace bullying who are not included under the current law. This bill also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee who opposes any unlawful employment practice. To be considered actionable, conduct there must be a nexus between the behavior and impairing the worker’s health. The legislation does not incur costs for the state and any legal action is limited to a private action.

Through the Healthy Workplace Campaign, 19 other states have proposed similar bullying legislation. There is a growing recognition of the toll this abusive behavior can have not only on individual workers, but also the entire office. In response to growing awareness of this problem, many employers have begun to change internal policies and goals to address workplace bullying. Both the legislature and business community have an opportunity to be leaders on this important issue and ensure healthy work environments across the state.


Be sure to visit the Massachusetts State Page to thank Sen. Clark and to implore committee chairs to schedule a public hearing soon.

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MA adds new Senate Healthy Workplace Bill

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Sen. Katherine Clark introduced S 916. It is the companion bill to HB 2310. Visit the MA State Page to thank her and to encourage the committee chairs to schedule a public hearing soon.

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