to hold employers accountable for psychological abuse
end workplace abuse's mission and values
Part of the End Workplace Abuse organization, we believe America’s workers have a right to safe workplaces where their psychological health is recognized as a vital component of overall well-being. All people — regardless of their gender, race, color, national origin, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, size, income, faith, religion, and political affiliation — deserve to lead healthy and productive lives and to work in safe environments free from abuse and oppression.
We strive to protect and promote workers’ rights to psychological wellness by advocating for the elimination of bullying and mobbing from the American workplace. We achieve our mission by:
- Organizing and leading a national collective movement.
- Lobbying for protective legislation and policies.
- Building leaders who campaign for abuse-free workplaces.
- Raising public understanding about psychological harm at work.
- Collaborating with other organizations to advance workers’ rights.
Bias and prejudice are enmeshed in workplace abuse, so we advocate for strong protections against discrimination.
We are a volunteer-led and volunteer-driven corps of advocates for workers’ rights and psychological safety in the workplace. Most of us are survivors of workplace bullying and mobbing. Millions of Americans are impacted by psychologically unsafe workplaces, and among them are inspired people who seek justice. We work collaboratively to build a network spanning the U.S..
Workplace abuse happens at a higher rate in organizations whose missions focus on serving the greater good. These organizations encompass nonprofits, government, and institutions in education, health, and human services and include organizations set up to fight injustices. We founded End Workplace Abuse to address this disparity. We vowed to set up a different kind of organization built on equitable, inclusive, and collaborative leadership and guided by processes, procedures, and policies that would minimize the possibility of harm to those we work with.
We are organized around two endeavors, the Workplace Psychological Safety Act and End Workplace Abuse.
- The Workplace Psychological Safety Act is a blueprint for comprehensive state legislation that seeks to protect workers from bullying and mobbing.
- End Workplace Abuse is our organization and a tool for advocates to voice their support for psychologically safe work environments and other workers’ rights bills. It is also a platform to partner with other organizations fighting employer abuse and safeguarding workers’ rights.
Workplace psychological abuse frequently takes the form of false accusations, sabotage, and repeated verbal abuse. It can result in:
- Individual harm: mental and emotional harm (loss of self-worth, anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and suicidal ideation), physical harm (cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, cancer, and other stress-related illnesses), financial harm when targets lose their jobs or careers, and social harm when targets feel isolated and trapped or their spouses, other family members, and friends don’t validate them or know how to help them. Targets also bring the depression home to their children, who lose parental support due to rumination.
- Organizational harm: billions of dollars annually in employer costs of lower productivity and morale, increased absenteeism and turnover, training costs, and higher employee benefits costs. To avoid liability, higher-ups most often ignore complaints or retaliate, including pushing targets out of their jobs.
- Societal harm: externalized health care and basic needs costs onto taxpayers when employers ignore employee well-being internally and push targets out. Targets who leave unhealthy work environments are frequently uninsured. When they get sick, they turn to ERs for care, where delivering primary care is not cost efficient. By the time they get there, their health has already deteriorated to a point where treatment expenses are far greater than earlier intervention would have been. Workplace bullying and mobbing can also lead to physical violence (suicide and homicide).
Workplace bullying and mobbing are employee exploitation often rooted in asymmetry of power and implicit bias. 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 ABUSER PLAYBOOK
There’s a pattern to abuse at work. Here’s how it works:
- 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 abuse to control the narrative. They try to convince the employee they are incompetent. They try to convince others the employee is incompetent.
- In toxic work environments, when employees report psychologically abusive behavior to proper workplace authorities, those authorities ignore their complaints (mobbing). Employers are not liable for psychologically abusive behavior, nor do many want to be. The employer misleads the unsuspecting employee to believe they have a legitimate complaint process to remedy the problem.
- The employer fails to alter the employee’s work environment. The employer doesn’t remove the stressor. The emboldened bully continues to abuse the target without consequence or deterrent. The complaint process is unnecessarily prolonged.
- 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.
- 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. The employee further realizes there is no legal recourse for any of it.
Why discrimination law is ineffective at protecting workers from bullying and mobbing
Anti-discrimination law has been ineffective at protecting workers from mistreatment in the American workplace. Bullying and mobbing are forms of psychological abuse that make our work environments unsafe. 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.”
Workers not in a protected class have even less protection in the American workplace when it comes to bullying and mobbing.
what we offer
The Workplace Psychological Safety Act (WPSA) provides a cause of action for employees who suffer from workplace psychological abuse.
It gives targeted employees legal recourse for employers creating a toxic work environment with a focus on specific, common behaviors that a reasonable person would deem toxic. Right now, it’s perfectly legal to be abusive at work in the U.S., even though it’s illegal in most of the industrialized world. Employers simply have way too much power. Targeted employees will be able to:
- File a restraining order against the employee who violates this Act depending on state law.
- Call for an internal investigation.
- Bypass a rigged internal process by calling for an investigation from the state human rights commission.
- Sue the employer and/or individual(s) in violation of this Act directly for economic, compensatory, and/or punitive damages and attorney’s fees. Employees can also sue criminally and choose to anonymously publicly disclose the case outcome, removing employers’ ability to silence them with non-disclosure agreements.
It requires employers to acknowledge, monitor, detect, prevent, discourage, and adequately address incidences of psychological abuse. Employers will no longer be allowed to sweep abuse at work under the rug and pretend they’re following protocol while ignoring abuse or retaliating to avoid liability. They’ll be required to:
- Adopt and implement policies and training
- Conduct an annual anonymous workplace climate survey to monitor the prevalence of abuse in their workplaces
We offer advocates:
- Training and financial support for introducing the Workplace Psychological Safety Act in their state.
- Strategy, base-building, marketing, volunteer management, fundraising, expert and high-profile advocates recruitment and coalition-building on the national level.
- Tools to collect email addresses and build state teams.
- Connection through quarterly progress reports with breakout rooms.
in the news
“Unintended Consequences: How Organizational Interventions Can Enable Toxic Leaders”
The Ritz Herald
February 11, 2024
“Historic Workplace Anti-Bullying Bill Advances in Massachusetts”
February 5, 2024
“What can a victim of an abusive leader do?”
When Leaders Talk Podcast
January 31, 2024
“End Workplace Abuse”
January 30, 2024
“When going to work becomes a matter of life or death”
The Texas Mail
January 29, 2024
“What To Know About Mass. ‘Psychological Safety’ Bill'”
January 24, 2024
“Silence is Expensive: How Workplace Bullying Drains Your Bottom Line”
January 23, 2024
SEIU 888 Podcast
January 23, 2024
“The Workplace Psychological Safety Act”
Psych Healthy and Safety USA Podcast
January 19, 2024
“How to fight toxic leaders”
When Leaders Talk Podcast
January 17, 2024
“Cruelty of workplace bullying grabs the attention of Mass. lawmakers”
The Boston Globe
January 16, 2024
“The psychological abuse of workplace bullying”
The Boston Globe
January 8, 2024
“I’m an HR chief. This is how I handled my own harassment claim.”
“Why We Need the Workplace Psychological Safety Act”
The Bedford Gazette (Pennsylvania)
The Daily Item (Pennsylvania)
The Daily News (New York)
Eagle Tribune (Massachusetts)
Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hawaii)
La Opinion (California)
The Livingston County News (New York)
McAlester Daily-News Capital (Oklahoma)
The Mercury (Kansas)
MSN – Tribune News Service
The Press Reader (Canada)
The Progressive Magazine (Wisconsin)
The Sun Chronicle (Massachusetts)
Times Leader (Pennsylvania)
West Hawaii Today (Hawaii)
Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington)
York Dispatch (Pennsylvania)
“Nearly 50 million workers are bullied at work. A new law can change that.”
December 26, 2023
“The bullied brain”
Touchy Subjects Podcast
December 15, 2023
“New Regulations For Workplace Psychological Abuse May Be On The Way”
November 28, 2023
“Workplace Psychological Safety Act Could Set National Precedent”
November 28, 2023
“Transforming HR: A Candid Conversation with Kimberly Williams”
November 27, 2023
“Toxic workplace culture”
Mental Health News Radio
“Mass. bill aims to create psychologically safe workplaces”
New England Biz Law Update
October 24, 2023
“Bullying, Introverts, And Stereotypes: 11 Persistent Signs Of Toxic Work Environments”
September 5, 2023
“Let’s talk about workplace abuse”
August 7, 2023
“Psychological safety bill advances in Rhode Island legislature“
Safety & Health Magazine
June 21, 2023
“Rhode Island lawmakers introduce workplace psychological safety bill“
May 31, 2023
“Mobbing (in the workplace”)
Toxic Tearoom Podcast
March 14, 2023