Senate Backs Healthy Workplace Bill

Member-Driven HB 591 Now Goes Back to the House

The state Senate on Thursday passed HB 591 with amendment. HB 591, as you likely know, is the SEA-member driven legislation that would help maintain a healthy work environment by prohibiting abuse of state employees in the workplace. This is an important step in protecting employees from a harmful, destructive working environment. The bill now goes back to the House, which passed it without amendment last year.

When we say member-driven, we really mean it — this bill wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the hard work and courageous testimony of SEA members, including Marie Morgan, Brenda Thomas and the prime sponsor, Rep. Dianne Schuett. We also must thank Sens. Sharon Carson and Donna Soucy for their work in getting this bill passed in the Senate.

Marie Morgan, a member of Chapter 44, was quick to share praise for the bill’s passage.

“HB 591 is an excellent example of what our members can accomplish when they work together,” Morgan said. “State employees from various agencies contacted their legislators and shared their stories of how they or coworkers were harassed in the workplace without recourse. Thankfully, our legislators listened and voted to prohibit abusive conduct in state workplaces. Special thanks to the many SEA staff members who supported us in this effort, especially Jay Ward, Beth D’Ovidio and Andrew Toland. They also helped to get this bill passed!”

Brenda Thomas, an SEA director and member of Chapter 45, said the news of the bill’s passage in the Senate was satisfying.

“The Senate in this vote has shown to the thousands of state employees that our concerns and needs are important to them,” Thomas said. “A workforce who can come to their worksite and be able to focus on the work with which we are tasked and not bullying behaviors of supervisors and co-workers makes us a stronger and more productive workforce. State employees take very seriously their service to the public and fellow citizens and a positive worksite only enables us to work to the best of our ability.”

Like Morgan, Thomas said it was important to thank all who have helped get the bill this far.

“Many people should be thanked for this day: Dianne Schuett who sponsored this legislation; Marie Morgan, who spent hours researching and drafting the legislation, as well as many other SEA members and our SEA political department, people too numerous to mention. We should also thank the members of the House Labor Committee, who listened to the many current and former state employees that testified before them, explaining the issues and conditions of their worksites. The Labor Committee listened and helped to make this day possible.”

“I am looking forward to this legislation becoming law and making the lives of my fellow state employees more peaceful and successful,” Thomas said.

The House approved HB 591 last year, but since the Senate version has been amended, the House will have to decide whether the changes were acceptable or if some changes are needed before it becomes final. We’ll give you an update as soon as we know what the House plans to do.

Senator Carson Releases Statement About HB 591

Yesterday, Senator Sharon Carson released the following statement:

Sen. Carson Statement on Legislation to Protect Employees from Abusive Work Environments

 Concord, NH – Senate Executive Department and Administration Chairman Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, issued the following statement upon Senate passage of HB 591, legislation designed to protect public employees from abusive work environments:

“State employees deserve a work environment free from abuse and harassment and thankfully we can say that the vast majority of our employees that have that today.  However, testimony received during the hearing on HB591 made it clear that there is more we can be doing to provide for the health and safety of our employees.  This legislation will address those shortcomings by requiring state agencies to adopt policies to ensure work environments and protecting employees who report such conduct.”

“I appreciate the bipartisan support for this legislation as well as the support for the floor amendment which addressed some of the key concerns brought to our attention by some employers and outside business interests,” continued Sen. Carson.  “It is my hope that the House will consider these amendments favorably and adopt this legislation with the same high level of support they did last year.”

HB591 will require state agencies to adopt and communicate a policy prohibiting abusive conduct and procedures for reporting and addressing such conduct within six months of becoming law.  The bill also provides whistleblower protections for employees who report instances of abusive workplace behavior.

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