Getting on a roll with the Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill

Like the female version of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark – “I’m making this up as I go!” Well, with the incredible assistance of those working on the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts, whose progress I have been following for at least a year.

The curse and the blessing of working on this project is that you sort of have to experience the trauma of a truly toxic, harmful-to-human-health workplace to be able to and want to do something about it. Also, just think of someone you really care about having to face the dread each day of being falsely accused of things they didn’t do, written up for non-existent infractions, possibly feeling suicidal, having increasing inability to sleep or function, well, you get the idea.

How do we stop this, you ask? We must give employees legal leverage in the form of the Healthy Workplace Bill, written by David Yamada, law professor at Suffolk University in Boston. Groups in every state are taking steps to promote this law to their state legislatures.

Pretty amazing steps, evolving away from a sort of Dickensian sweat shop mentality that I, for one, thought we had left behind. I thought Unions had made things better for employees – and they have. The problem is that ever since the Great Recession, employers have used “the company is in trouble” to spur employees to greater and greater productivity.  That strategy can work for a  while, but over time, it can lead to what looks like kicking a dead horse or “blood from stones.”  Then outsourcing to get fresh people who are willing to work for next to nothing serves several purposes. 1) It creates fear in Americans that they will be totally replaced by H1b visa status workers, leading them to overwork 2) It causes employers to view Americans as desperate workers, as desperate as the people willing to leave their homelands to make better lives for themselves. These newly desperate American workers can then be offered almost any conditions that they will accept rather than be unemployed. What follows is abuse by people in positions of power, figuring that “anything goes” in the treatment of any worker.

There are laws to help people in the so called “protected classes” – those with disabilities, those of minority races, women and older workers, but there is no law currently on the books to protect workers from bullying – a unique form of harassment.

The irony is, the worse employees are treated, the worse they perform and the worse the company performs. Somehow, no one seems to have figured out this connection.

That’s where the Healthy Workplace Bill comes into play. Have a look at the bill itself at and look at the work the Workplace Bullying Institute has done to define the term “Workplace Bullying”

Working hard is one thing, but “work shouldn’t hurt.”

Please go to the Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Advocates Facebook Page and our website – sign up as an advocate, let me know how you’d like to help, make suggestions – let’s get this off the ground and THANKS!

More later – Jessica Stensrud

Getting on a roll with the Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill

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