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Psychological safety bill advances in Rhode Island legislature

Photo: fizkes/iStockphoto

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Senate recently passed legislation aimed at protecting workers from psychological abuse – such as bullying – on the job.

The Workplace Psychological Safety Act (S.B. 821) would make it unlawful for an employer or employee to engage in psychological abuse of a worker that “creates a toxic work environment in which a reasonable person would find it intolerable to perform their regular workplace duties and tasks.” 

In addition, the act would ban any form of retaliation against a worker who files a complaint. It would also prohibit a complainant from having to enter into an agreement – such as a non-disclosure, forced arbitration or mediation – that allows the employer to view any of their medical history not pertinent to the complaint.

Employers would be required to adopt preventive and detective internal policies against psychological abuse, including anti-retaliation policies, within 90 days.

Employers would also have to notify and train all managers, supervisors and other representative employees on how to handle complaints of psychologically abusive behavior, including the employer’s reporting provisions and policies on acknowledging, monitoring, preventing, discouraging and adequately addressing all related complaints.

Any employee or company representative who engages in psychological abuse could face misdemeanor charges, which would carry up to a one-year jail term or a fine up to $15,000.

The bill, sponsored by six Democrats, passed by a 28-3 vote on June 8 and has been referred to the House Labor Committee.

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