We have a fundamental right to dignity at work

The Dignity At Work Act is about granting our fundamental human right to dignity at work. Workplace abuse (or workplace bullying) often involves a person in power, such as a manager or supervisor, taking advantage of a less powerful employee. 

What workplace abuse is

Abuse of power is too often a symptom of implicit bias — a problem discrimination law stopped helping since the 1980s when courts moved from focusing on impact to intent. Intent is a high threshold that makes the law mostly ineffective at addressing bias and disrupting hierarchies at work that create haves and have-nots when those in power “other” people. More than 50 years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, white men still occupy the vast majority of power positions in the U.S. workforce.

Abuse may take the form of:

  • Interpersonal abuse like public ridicule, disrespect, overwork, and overcontrol, including put-downs, screaming, excessive criticism, destructive gossip, false...

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How targets of workplace abuse find justice without a law

When a competent target poses a threat to a deeply insecure aggressor, the target generally feels unfairness and injustice. But how do targets attempt to find justice without a law or without using the legal system, full of asymmetry of power and discrimination, if they have evidence of discrimination?

The sad truth is that most targets of workplace abuse don't find justice. Many simply view justice as consequences (aka job loss) for the abuser and restoring their own employment if they left or were terminated.

But targets can find some justice through:

  • Exposing the abuse — either to senior management or the media. In other words, feeling heard in a situation where they feel invisible and as though their feelings are irrelevant.
  • Advocating for legislation to end workplace abuse, also taking back power by feeling seen and heard.
  • Putting themselves first, often by leaving the job and making their health and career a priority over the toxic workplace.

Hiring an attorney and...

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A lawyer makes the case for workplace abuse legislation

My name is Rebecca Dupras (@redupras). I am a resident of Rhode Island and I currently practice law here. I recently spoke on the passage of the Healthy Workplace Act. Though my experience did not take place in Rhode Island, these types of incidents are happening everywhere in our country. My experience occurred while working for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in California and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and is well documented in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The New York Times, and Forbes Magazine.

During my time as a Vice President of Development at this charitable foundation, where I managed a team of 10-15 people, I was subjected to consistent harassment, manipulation, and threats by my supervisor. She worked at the organization for over a decade, and I was not her only victim. She would threaten violence towards coworkers, humiliate and embarrass me and others during meetings and in front of other staff, say sexually explicit things, and...

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