ACCEPT NOTHING LESS THAN A HEALTHY AND SAFE WORKPLACE
CALL YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS
Advocates nationwide call for a law addressing workplace abuse to improve work cultures.
The Dignity At Work Act
The Dignity At Work Act (DAWA) is a brand-new bill that provides a cause of action for employees who suffer from workplace bullying. With the legislation, we fight for the most safety for employees of any known proposed legislation and prohibit the most known forms of bullying behavior to create safe work environments.
DAWA is rooted in these principles:
- Workplace abuse isn’t covered by existing law. Harassment isn’t illegal unless targets are members of a protected class (sex, race, age, etc.) under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and can prove the abuse is from their protected class membership. Employers know there’s a loophole in the law for not addressing bullying. The bill will fill that gap in the law.
- Other potential avenues for relief for targets of workplace bullying are ineffective. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims require targets to prove the bully’s intent and to show severe emotional distress, setting too high of a bar for relief. Workers comp laws often fail to address workplace bullying and psychological harm, and when they do, they provide inadequate relief. DAWA will provide targets a clear avenue to be made whole and to continue their careers.
- Employers often don’t enforce their own policies and retaliate against those who report bullying. The target leaving or getting fired is generally what stops the bullying. Because employers aren’t required to follow their own policies, a law requiring employers to create anti-bullying policies and training doesn’t protect targets. Tennessee passed a bill incentivizing workplace bullying policies, and California passed a training-only bill. Neither have proven effective. DAWA does not give employers immunity simply for having a policy. Instead, DAWA creates an incentive for employers to actually prevent, detect, remedy, and eliminate workplace bullying.
- We can’t prove intent. We’ve learned from US and international jurisprudence that it’s often impossible for targets to prove the bully’s intent, but the bullying still has negative impacts. Intent (general or specific) must not be one of the required elements for a workplace bullying claim. Bullying scholars and legal practitioners both understand the difficulty of proving intent. As a result, intent is generally not included in the research definition of bullying and should not be included in the law. DAWA does not require targets of bullying to prove their bully’s intent.
- Psychological and physical harm is only one aspect of damage. We’ve learned through US harassment jurisprudence that targets should not have to suffer psychological or physical harm before they have a cognizable claim. As the EEOC has recently reiterated, we want to stop harassing behaviors as soon as possible. An effective bill must establish a standard of harm that mirrors the EEO laws that the hostile environment or the bullying itself is enough of a harm to have a cognizable claim. Just as the EEOC and the judicial system have recognized that a hostile environment caused by harassment based on a protected status is harmful to workers, DAWA recognizes the hostile environment created by bullying is also a harm that should have a legal remedy.
- Employers need incentive to change. We know over the history of workplace harassment that the business case is not enough to convince employers to adequately address workplace bullying. Instead, the penalties for failing to do so much be enough to provide incentive. An effective bill must require employers to adopt all necessary steps to eliminate workplace bullying — steps well-established in bullying literature. Failure to do so must expose employers to meaningful penalties. Established defenses have not been effective in preventing, detecting, remedying, and eliminating workplace bullying. An effective anti-bullying bill must avoid adopting immunity defenses.
- Legal action must be affordable to everyone. The majority of US workers are unable to afford access to the pay-to-play legal system. An effective anti-bullying bill must account for this lack of access and provide access to remedies via a governmental agency. A governmental agency with enforcement and oversight of an anti-bullying bill will be able to not only provide access to targets, but also provide regulations, enforcement guidance, and model policies for employers. Conflict resolution via a governmental agency will be more expeditious than litigation, prevent tying up already overburdened courts with additional litigation, and provide paths for mutually agreeable resolutions that will allow employers and employees to continue a productive working relationship. DAWA would assure targets several paths to remedies including access to a state agency with enforcement power and private litigation should they choose that route.
Active DAWAs in 2021:
Rhode Island, S.196
ASK FOR CHANGE
Asking your state legislators for change is simple:
- Find your state legislators.
- Call and ask them to sign onto the bill. Legislators care most about what their own constituents want so they can get re-elected. So if you live in the district of the legislator you’re calling, let whoever answers the phone know that upfront. Tell whoever answers the phone “Hi! My name is (YOUR NAME). I live in (NAME OF YOUR TOWN). I’m calling to ask (NAME OF THE LEGISLATOR) to sign onto (BILL NUMBER — SEE ABOVE), the Dignity At Work Act.” They may ask you your address.
- Ask others to do the same.
SPREAD THE WORD
SEND THIS LETTER TO FRIENDS
Help get the word out. Fill in the blanks below and then email this letter to friends.
Dear (INSERT NAME),
I ask you to contact your state representatives and senators today to urge them to support the workplace anti-abuse (INSERT BILL NUMBER).
The bill is about human dignity at work. It’s about the right to be left alone to do your job and earn a living — without being abused or mistreated.
Workplace abuse is a serious national problem. It’s much more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination on the job, and 30-90 percent of workers will likely experience or witness abuse during their working lives.
But when employees complain about abusive behaviors, most employers either ignore the problem or make it worse. Many targets suffer severe anxiety, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, and other stress-related conditions.
We can’t tolerate abuse that endangers the health of workers. It shouldn’t be legal for a supervisor or co-worker to abuse you at work. And it shouldn’t be legal for your employer to simply ignore the problem. This bill would hold employers accountable.
I support this bill because no one should have to choose between providing for themselves or leaving an abusive work environment.
Will you contact your state legislators today and ask them to support (INSERT BILL NUMBER)? http://www.openstates.org
You can go to http://www.endworkplaceabuse.com for more information or to sign up for updates.
WORKERS' RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Advocacy for workers’ rights doesn’t stop with workplace abuse legislation. When it comes to re-claiming our dignity, we can push for other pro-employee bills.
Contact your state legislators to ask to move these bills forward.
Independent investigations for sexual harassment
Medicare for All
One fair wage (for tipped employees)
North Carolina: TBA
Rhode Island: TBA
Paid sick leave
Rhode Island: H5584
Wage data reporting
Let us know what pro-employee bills have been proposed in your state by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll list them here.
We can also push for other pro-employee bills with federal legislators.
BE HEARD Act (HR 2148)
Bringing An End To Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act
Current law doesn’t do enough to stop discrimination, particularly for the most vulnerable workers. To address the issue, the ACLU drafted Principles and Priorities for Legislative Action to Eliminate Workplace Harassment for Congress. The BE HEARD Act strengthens and broadens discrimination laws, removes barriers for targets, and helps employers create incentives and accountability for safe workplaces:
- It extends protections to all. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act doesn’t address workers in small businesses. This law would cover all employees regardless of business size plus independent contractors, volunteers, interns, fellows, and trainees — and add LGBTQ workers as a protected class.
- It gives targets a fair chance in court. Case law requires that harassment be “severe or pervasive” to win in court, often unattainable and that groping may not even fall under. The bill outlines what conduct is and is not unlawful to give guidance to the courts who’ve historically excused abusive conduct, blocking justice, and preventing others from speaking up.
- It promotes transparency. Acts of discrimination are most often kept private, furthered with agreements that mandate arbitration rather than lawsuits upon starting jobs. The bill would ban mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements upon accepting a job.
- It restores protections for workers harassed by supervisors. The bill would make holding employers liable for supervisor harassment easier.
- It assists employers in creating harassment-free workplaces. The bill authorizes research and data collection and gives employers template policies, trainings, and surveys plus best practices.
An effort to address the gender pay gap, the Paycheck Fairness Act holds employers accountable for retaliating against workers who share wage information and places the burden on employers to justify pay gaps. Workers can then sue for wage discrimination.
The PRO Act will empower workers to negotiate better wages, benefits, and working conditions while preventing employers from interfering in union elections and other workers’ rights violations through penalties. It will also override “right-to-work” laws that prevent unions from collecting dues from the workers they represent. (Unions drive gender equality, higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces, but union membership is only 10 percent of the country’s workforce.)