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THE PROBLEM: Workplace bullying and mobbing are violations of basic human rights with severe discriminatory impact

Psychological harassment and psychological abuse often lead to psychological injury

Something’s off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You expect your boss and co-workers to support you to do the work you were hired to do and expected to be treated with dignity and respect.

But that’s not what's happening. Your boss or co-worker talks down to you. It seems you can’t say or do anything right. Your office was moved to a less visible space.

You've been targeted by a workplace bully.

You try to please the abuser or try to figure out how you need to change. But nothing works. The abuse continues. The bully is threatened by your competence, social skills, and any other good qualities you have.They either keep you immobilized under their thumb or do everything in their power to get rid of you.

You want to respectfully confront the abuser and tell them their behavior is unacceptable but are afraid they'll come back at you even harder next time. The power imbalance silences you into submission to keep the peace and your paycheck.

The bully doesn’t let up, and you report the problem to management. You expect the organization to intervene and either discipline or get rid of the abuser, but neither happen. Delay after delay. Nothing is ever done about the bully. Something isn’t off. Everything is off.

You're in a HOSTILE work environment.

For the majority of targeted and victimized employees, the psychological harassment and psychological abuse doesn’t stop until they leave. If toxic workplace behavior isn’t dealt with effectively in the short term, employees are likely in a hostile work environment — where higher-ups prioritize avoiding corporate liability over human well-being.

Employers aren’t currently liable for the psychological safety of their employees — nor do they want to be. So the employer/its representative employees further abuse the employee with a willful blindness and deafness to the problem (mobbing). They choose to ignore the problem and make reporting employees go away instead.

In hostile work environments, employers/representative employees defraud and conspire against employees who report abuse to avoid the threat of liability. If employees fight them, they fight harder. With legal resources at their fingertips, they win most of the time. The mission of organizational bullying is to break you psychologically, leaving no fingerprints.

There are three typical outcomes for bullied and mobbed employees:

  1. They leave voluntarily from the health harm they incurred from silent-killer stress waiting for organizational resolve.
  2. They are fired by the employer because they can no longer perform their duties due to that health harm.
  3. They die.

A crime is a crime. These are inhumane workplace practices that violate basic human rights without account. The majority of targeted and victimized employees don’t realize what’s happened to them until after they leave the work environment. Realization of the premeditated health harm and job loss often leads to traumatic psychological injury, an injury to the brain.

We need a law.

Psychological harassment and psychological abuse at work is an epidemic that affects as much as 96 percent of U.S. workers, and workplace experts believe they are on the rise. A 2021 study estimates that 48.6 million Americans are bullied in the workplace.

The mistreatment often leads to serious, long-term, physical, psychological, emotional health harm and economic injury as many employees suffer severe financial loss after losing their jobs and careers, too ill to return to work. PTSD and stress-induced illnesses are common consequences as is suicide and suicide ideation. Employees die.

We have regulations at work for environmental safety. We have regulations at work for physical safety. It has been the historic practice in the United States to legislate issues of employee exploitation. The psychological safety of employees is of no less importance.

We need a law NOW!

THE DISCRIMINATORY NATURE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING AND MOBBING

At the heart of workplace bullying and mobbing is the imbalance and misuse of power, and the power dynamics are highlighted by the fact that people of color, women, LGBTQ, the oldest and youngest members of the workforce, and the disabled are mistreated more frequently.

Anti-discrimination laws are supposed to protect workers against harassment and unfair treatment because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age (40 or older), or disability or genetic information, but they have failed to do that for decades as researchers have shown. Workers outside these protected classes have no legal protections whatsoever and are equally exploited when it comes to psychological safety in the American workplace.

Our workplaces and the legal system have consistently failed to protect employees from psychological harassment and psychological abuse. It is an issue of occupational safety and human well-being. It is an issue of employee exploitation.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Evan Seyfried is a blueprint of both bullying and mobbing.Evan's co-workers mentally tormented him, and then his employer/its representative employees who turned a willful blind eye and deaf ear to the abuse to avoid a PERCEIVED threat of liability further abused him.

The Workplace Psychological Safety Act is Evan's law

Demand Justice for Evan

On March 9, 2021, 40-year old Evan Seyfried took his own life after workplace abuse and mobbing. He was a 20-year exemplary employee at Kroger, one of the largest grocers in the US. In a wrongful death lawsuit, Evan's family alleges his death resulted from a six-month abuse campaign in Milford, Ohio:

  • A supervisor harassed him for wearing a mask during COVID.
  • Evan reported unwanted sexual advances, threats of tracking Internet usage, and stalking.
  • Evan's repeated reports to management and the union resulted in no meaningful action. In fact, Kroger denied a transfer to another store.
  • After Evan helped two employees file sexual harassment complaints against a supervisor, he received texts with child pornography.
  • Co-workers sabotaged an audit. Supervisors wrote Evan up 9x despite never receiving a reprimand. He feared getting fired.
  • Fearing for his safety, Evan moved in with his parents. He worried about the audit, phone monitoring, and plan to frame him for possessing child pornography.
THE BASICS

Workplace abuse and mobbing

Understand the basics of this epidemic intertwined with discrimination.

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The estimated number of annual U.S. excess deaths from workplace stress according to Stanford's Jeffrey Pfeffer

Research shows workplaces are the fifth leading cause of death and account for billions in additional healthcare costs. At least half of the deaths and one third of the excess costs can be prevented by tending to well-being.

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Learn more about the history of abuse at work — both in the U.S. and internationally.

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We're building an army of workers who say enough is enough when it comes to workplace abuse.

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Throughout history, those in power have written the rules to keep themselves in power. We want to change those rules to say:

  • Workers deserve — and demand — psychological safety.
  • Our policies and actions must support workers as people.
  • Employers are responsible for treating workers with dignity.

We can change the workplace rules if we stand in our collective power.

Sign the petition!

Workplace bullying and mobbing are forms of psychological harassment and psychological abuse that violate an employee’s inherent basic human right to dignity: severe or pervasive infliction of hostile and unethical words and/or actions, intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect, or omissions, directed in a targeted and/or systematic manner that creates a hostile work environment that is offensive and a reasonable person would find unsuitable to perform regular duties and tasks. A single severe incident of such behavior may also constitute psychological abuse.

The abuser playbook
There's a pattern to abuse at work. Here’s how it works:

  1. Workplace bullying typically begins when one employee, who is generally insecure and/or jealous, is threatened by the competence or demeanor of another employee. The bully targets an unsuspecting employee to minimize and/or eliminate the perceived threat the employee poses to them. Bullies use persistent psychological harassment to control the narrative. They try to convince the employee they are incompetent. They try to convince others the employee is incompetent.
    In hostile work environments, when employees report psychologically abusive behavior to proper workplace authorities, those authorities ignore their complaints. Employers are not liable for psychologically harassing behavior, nor do many want to be. The employer misleads the unsuspecting employee is misled to believe they have a legitimate complaint process to remedy the problem.
  2. The employer/its representative employees fail to alter the employee's work environment. The employer/its representative employees don't remove the stressor.
    The emboldened bully continues to harass and abuse the target without consequence or deterrent. The complaint process is unnecessarily prolonged.
  3. The unsuspecting employee voluntarily leaves, dies, or is fired, succumbing to the silent killer stress of the work environment. There is significant physical, mental, and emotional injury as well as severe economic harm. Game over. The bully wins. Her perceived competition is gone. The employer wins. Their perceived threat of liability is gone. The unsuspecting employee had done nothing to provoke either.
  4. Trauma upon trauma. When the employee realizes the institutional duplicity and complicity of tampering with their health and livelihood, forcing them off the payroll to avoid liability, trauma upon trauma occurs.
  5. Upon trauma. The employee further realizes there is no legal recourse for any of it.

Who’s picking up the tab for the long-term health care of millions of unemployed citizens and basic needs costs? You are: the taxpayer. And you have been for decades.

The solution: the Workplace Psychological Safety Act (Evan's Law)
Workplace psychological harassment and psychological abuse are issues of employee exploitation.

Employers are not explicitly liable for the psychological harm of their employees — nor do they want to be. At its root cause is avoidance of employer liability. The status quo, employers are negatively incentivized to address the issue even if they claim to value safe workplaces. Employers choose to avoid a perceived threat of liability over human well-being.

The Workplace Psychological Safety Act (WPSA) takes that choice away and provides a cause of action for employees who suffer from workplace psychological harassment and/or psychological abuse.

The WHY behind the bill:

  1. There is no current law that protects workers from workplace psychological harassment and/or psychological abuse. Unless you’re a member of a protected class (sex, race, age, etc.) under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — and can prove the abuse is from your protected class membership — you don’t have rights to psychological safety at work under law. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) law requires victims to not only prove the abuser’s intent but also to show severe emotional distress, a near impossible threshold to prove.
  2. Proving intent doesn’t work with anti-discrimination law — and it won’t work with mistreatment in general. Anti-discrimination law used to work when it focused on impact. The courts’ shift in the 1980s to a focus on intent has rendered anti-discrimination law nearly useless. It’s no secret it’s an epic failure. The WPSA does not require victims to prove their abuser’s intent, so it would strengthen protections for women and non-white workers who can prove discriminatory impact but not intent.
  3. Workplace psychological harassment and psychological abuse is an organizational problem, not an individual one. Courts treat anti-discrimination law, which psychological harassment and psychological abuse overlaps with, as an individual problem. But it’s a systemic problem often rooted in negative stereotypes and threats to power and control. The WPSA focuses on both individual recourse AND collective recourse to address the problem at the root: with employers. Employers control the work environment.
  4. Oftentimes, employers don’t enforce their own policies or practice what they preach around training — and even retaliate against those who report abuse. There is no law stating employers have to follow their own policies. Tennessee passed a bill incentivizing workplace anti-abuse policies, and California passed a training-only bill. Neither are effective. Policy and training laws don’t work. In addition, workers compensation laws don’t recognize hostile work environments or psychological injury. They are employer-controlled and require employees to waive their right to sue. Employers know there are loopholes in the law. The bill will fill those loopholes.
  5. Employers need accountability to make our workplaces psychologically safe. The WPSA creates an accountable incentive for employers to actually prevent and address workplace psychological harassment and psychological abuse. The WPSA requires employers to do what’s right — and requires the public reporting of attrition rates and law violations to get in front of the health and economic harm to targeted and victimized employees before it can occur.
  6. We can prevent harm of any kind. No law will eradicate an issue, but the goal is to prevent workplace psychological harassment and psychological abuse as much as possible. Prevention means not waiting until harm occurs (not just psychological or physical harm). Sexual harassment law acknowledges a hostile work environment is enough for legal recourse. The WPSA sets its baseline for a legal claim at a hostile work environment, consistent with sexual harassment law.
  7. A legal remedy must be affordable for all workers. Our legislators designed our pay-to-play legal system to favor those who can afford lawyers. We must do better. As with regulations for other harms, we must also put money toward this problem if we want to fix it. Making abuse illegal regardless of protected class status (giving more protections to members of protected classes) would lessen the EEOC and state agency backlogs and lessen the burden on the courts. The WPSA would ensure that everyone, especially our most vulnerable, low-wage workers, can access a remedy while still providing for a private action.

Why discrimination law is ineffective at protecting workers from bullying and mobbing
It’s no secret discrimination law is ineffective at protecting workers from mistreatment in the American workplace. Bullying and mobbing are forms of psychological harassment and psychological abuse that make our work environments unsafe. It’s time to fill the gap.

There is no denying mistreatment at work has a discriminatory impact. According to the 2016 EEOC Select Task Force for the Study of Workplace Harassment Report, “During the course of fiscal year 2015, EEOC received approximately 28,000 charges alleging harassment from employees working for private employers or state and local government employers.” Their findings:

  • “…anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.”
  • “…70% of the respondents reported experiencing some form of verbal harassment and 45% reported experiencing exclusionary behaviors [in a survey regarding racial and ethnic harassment].”
  • “35% of LGB-identified respondents who reported being ‘open’ at work reported having been harassed in the workplace.”
  • “…20% of respondents with disabilities reported experiencing harassment or unfair treatment at work because of their disability.”
  • “…8% of respondents reported having been exposed to unwelcome comments about their age.” Source: https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace
  • If you are not in a protected class, you have even less protection in the American workplace when it comes to bullying and mobbing.

    Workers deserve psychologically safe work environments.

    %%your signature%%

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We believe America’s workers have a right to safe workplaces where their psychological health is recognized as a vital component of their overall well-being. All people – regardless of their gender, race, disabilities, sexual orientation, age, income, faith, and political affiliations – deserve to lead healthy and productive lives and to work in safe environments free from abuse and oppression.

 

We are part of End Workplace Abuse, which strives to protect and promote workers’ right to psychological wellness – critical to physical health, by advocating for the elimination of abusive behaviors (bullying, mobbing, and harassment) from the American workplace. We achieve our mission by organizing and leading a collective movement advocating for psychological safety at work. We lobby for protective legislation and policies, raise public awareness about psychological harm at work, build leaders who campaign for abuse-free workplaces, and collaborate with other organizations advancing workers’ rights. Because bias and prejudice are often an integral part of workplace abuse, we advocate for protections against discrimination.

 

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