A bill protecting elderly and persons with disability from bullying

A bill protecting elderly and persons with disability from bullying, mobbing, and hostile environment harassment in multifamily subsidized and public housing.  

This bill mandates and empowers the trained abuse investigators of the Department of Elder Affairs and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to investigate complaints of bullying, and to refer as appropriate situations of hostile environment harassment and mobbing for prosecution of the landlord by the Attorney General or the District Attorneys.

We petition for new remedial and protective legislation by amending MGL Part I, Chapter 19A: DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS and Chapter 19C: DISABLED PERSONS PROTECTION COMMISSION as proposed here.

DRAFT by Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition who served on the Commission on Bullying. This draft is subject to revision responding to comments and criticisms. We are seeking professional advice to revise the language to meet legislative standards and terminology.
Comments to Comments@StopBullyingCoalition.org

Definitions

The following words and terms shall, unless the context otherwise requires, have the following meaning applicable to MGL Part 1 Section 14 Elderly and to MGL Part 1 Section 19c Disabled:

  • “Abuse” includes bullying, mobbing, and hostile environment harassment.
  • “Bullying, mobbing, and hostile environment harassment” are behaviors which may result in stress and serious physical or emotional injury to elderly persons, even if they do not include threats of or actual physical assault.
  • ”Bullying” or “harassment” is any mode of communication used by one or more perpetrators to hurt and demean the target or victim, and/or to mobilize members of the community to use gossip, social pressures, and isolation, often in order to control or exclude the target from common areas of the residential setting, and sometimes to “get rid of” or cause the target to be evicted. Repetition is a better indicator than intent because it can be observed.
  • “Covered residential situation” includes public and subsidized multifamily housing communities for elderly and people with disability.
  • “Commission” or “DPPC” refers to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission.
  • “Department” refers to the Department of Elder Affairs.
  • “Group bullying” consists of a group of perpetrators, who may include tenants as well as agents of the landlord, harassing and bullying a target, including in order to get rid of them.
  • “Institutional mobbing” consists of the landlord and their agents condoning or ignoring a community harassing and bullying one or more targets.
  • “Hostile environment harassment” is unwelcome conduct creating a situation that makes it difficult or impossible for victims to have the peaceful enjoyment of their residency.
  • “Hotline,” a system for receiving timely reports from mandated reporters and the public, consisting of a monitored telephone line, a monitored email address, and a monitored postal service address; with staff trained to take complaints, evaluate them, and send on to the local protective service agency for rapid evaluation and action.
  • “Landlord and their agents,” In public housing, the local housing authority, and their agents. In privately owned, subsidized housing, the owner and their agents, including management and all staff.
  • “Mobbing,” is bullying or harassment among peers and/or staff that is initiated, condoned, or supported by the landlord and their agents.
  • “Peaceful enjoyment,” also called “quiet enjoyment” is the right of each tenant to enjoy the use of their home and common spaces without interference.
  • “Perpetrator,” any person or group who uses bullying tactics.
  • “Protective services,” services which are necessary to prevent, eliminate, or remedy the effects of abuse, bullying, harassment, mobbing, and hostile environment harassment on an elderly person or a person with disability.
  • “Public housing,” multifamily housing that is owned and managed by a local housing authority and is supported in whole or part by the Commonwealth through the Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • “Subsidized housing,” multifamily housing that is privately owned and is supported in whole or part by payments, tax incentives, vouchers, and other inducements provided by HUD, MassHousing, or the Commonwealth in order to encourage landlords to provide affordable housing and to provide subsidies to tenants directly (Section 8) or pay to landlords the difference between market rate and the reduced amount paid by tenants based on their income.
  • “Target” or “victim,” the person or group who is bullied or harassed.

Section 15: Reports of abuse; liability (elder affairs)

Section 15. (a) Add to the list of mandated reporters: the landlord of a public housing multifamily residence or subsidized multifamily residence and all their agents including the executive director or manager

Add or revise the following paragraphs as follows:

(v) Any person may file a report if such person has reasonable cause to believe that an elderly or disabled person is suffering from abuse or has died as a result thereof.

(w) No mandated reporter shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of submitting a report. No other person making a report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of submitting a report if such report was made in good faith; provided, however, that no person who abuses a disabled person shall be exempt from civil or criminal liability by reason of their reporting such abuse.

(x) Any person who shall make a malicious and false report shall be punished by a fine or not more than five hundred dollars.

(y) Any person who seeks to prevent good faith reports or to retaliate against any person who makes such a report, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. A victim of of such interference or retaliation may file a complaint with the department.

(z) The department shall establish a hotline or expand an existing hotline service for receiving timely reports from mandated reporters and the public, and shall promote awareness of the hotline and the right to submit reports through a public relations campaign.

(aa) The department shall provide appropriate training to investigators and other staff, as well as contractors, who may be involved in the investigation, evaluation, and interventions related to this area of abuse.

Section 17. A protective services agency is authorized:

(6a:) The protective service, on finding that a covered residential situation is characterized by hostile environment harassment, shall report to the Attorney General or District Attorney and recommend for investigation and possible legal action to provide protection for the elderly residents by holding the landlord accountable to assure peaceful enjoyment for all tenants.

(aa)The protective service agency shall provide appropriate training to investigators and other staff, as well as contractors, who may be involved in the investigation, evaluation, and interventions related to this new area of abuse.


Chapter 19C: Disabled Persons Protection Commission

The following paragraphs shall be added to or amend existing law for the commission:

Add to the list of mandated reporters: the landlord of a public housing multifamily residence or subsidized multifamily residence and all their agents including the executive director or manager

Add or revise the following paragraphs as follows:

(v) Any person may file a report if such person has reasonable cause to believe that an elderly or disabled person is suffering from abuse or has died as a result thereof.

(w) No mandated reporter shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of submitting a report. No other person making a report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of submitting a report if such report was made in good faith; provided, however, that no person who abuses a disabled person shall be exempt from civil or criminal liability by reason of their reporting such abuse.

(x) Any person who shall make a malicious and false report shall be punished by a fine or not more than five hundred dollars.

(y) Any person who seeks to prevent good faith reports or to retaliate against any person who makes such a report, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. A victim of of such interference or retaliation may file a complaint with the department.

(z)The department shall establish a hotline or expand an existing hotline service for receiving timely reports from mandated reporters and the public, and shall promote awareness of the hotline and the right to submit reports through a public relations campaign.

(aa)The department shall provide appropriate training to investigators and other staff, as well as contractors, who may be involved in the investigation, evaluation, and interventions related to this area of abuse.

Section 17. A protective services agency is authorized:

(6a:) The protective service, on finding that a covered residential situation is characterized by hostile environment harassment, shall report to the Attorney General or District Attorney and recommend for investigation and possible legal action to provide protection for the elderly residents by holding the landlord accountable to assure peaceful enjoyment for all tenants.

(aa)The protective service agency shall provide appropriate training to investigators and other staff, as well as contractors, who may be involved in the investigation, evaluation, and interventions related to this new area of abuse.

Section 4. Upon receipt of a report of abuse of a disabled person, the commission shall:--

(w) If the report concerns a person with disability living independently in a covered residential setting, the commission shall immediately assign an investigator to evaluate the allegations of bullying, mobbing, or hostile environment harassment, and take steps to protect the health and safety of the target, and shall refer instances of hostile environment harassment and mobbing to the commission with a recommendation for referral to the Attorney General or District Attorney, as specified in Section 5, (1).

(z)The commission shall establish a hotline or expand an existing hotline service for receiving timely reports from mandated reporters and the public, consisting of a monitored telephone line and monitored email address, with staff trained to take complaints, evaluate them, and send on to the local protective service agency for rapid evaluation and action.


Background on DPPC and Elder Affairs

Disabled Persons Protection Commission

The mission of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission is: To protect adults with disabilities from the abusive acts or omissions of their caregivers through investigation oversight, public awareness and prevention.

The DPPC was created through legislation (M.G.L. c.19C) in 1987 as an independent state agency responsible for the investigation and remediation of instances of abuse committed against persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth. Pursuant to its enabling statute M.G.L. c. 19C, the jurisdiction of DPPC includes adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 59, who are within the Commonwealth whether in state care or in a private setting and who suffer serious physical and/or emotional injury through the act and/or omission of their caregivers. The DPPC enabling statute fills the gap between the Department of Children and Families (DCF) (through the age of 17) and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) (age 60 and over) statutes. As an independent state agency, DPPC through its three Commissioners are required to report directly to the Governor and the Legislature. The Executive Director, who reports directly to the Commissioners, is charged with the responsibility of the daily operations of DPPC and supervision of its staff. Role of the DPPC In cases of suspected physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, the DPPC: • Receives and screens reports of suspected abuse, neglect and deaths through a 24-Hour Hotline • Conducts investigations • Oversees investigations conducted on DPPC’s behalf by other state agencies: Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) • Ensures that the appropriate protective services are provided when abuse has been substantiated or risk is determined • Provides training and education for service providers, law enforcement personnel and the public • Provides assistance to the public in clarifying the presence of abuse and neglect

 


Executive Office of Elder Affairs

Promotes independence, empowerment, and well-being of older people, individuals with disabilities, and their families. We ensure access to the resources you need to live healthy in every community in the Commonwealth. Elder Affairs supports older adults and individuals with disabilities to ‘age in community’ so they can live well and be safe. We provide access to quality, person-centered aging and disability services. There are 26 local agencies that have programs that help with: In-home care Protective services Family support Meals and nutrition services Housing Service support issues Elder Abuse Reports can be filed 24 hours a day either online (see instructions below) or by phone at (800) 922-2275. Elder abuse includes: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, caretaker neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect. Elder Protective Services can only investigate cases of abuse where the person is age 60 and over and lives in the community. To report abuse of a person with a disability under the age of 60, call the Disabled Persons Protection Commission at (800) 426-9009.


Missouri law on bullying

REPRESENTATIVE KEN WILSON SERVING THE 12TH DISTRICT ISSUE 26, JULY 16, 2016 New Law Will Protect Missouri Seniors from Bullying

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—A new law is set to provide additional protections to Missouri’s senior population. Originally sponsored by state Rep. Ken Wilson, the legislation clarifies that bullying an elderly person qualifies as elderly abuse. Wilson’s language was added to the existing SB 732 (Missouri’s Elder Abuse Statute ), which was approved by the Missouri General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session, and signed into law by Gov. Nixon on July 8,[2016].

The bill adds the bullying of an elderly person under state’s existing elder abuse law. The bill goes on to define bullying as intimidation or harassment that causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her physical safety or property. Under the bill, bullying would consist of physical actions including gestures, cyber bullying, oral, electronic, or written communication, and any threat of retaliation for reporting of such acts.

“I know many think of bullying as a problem faced primarily by young people, but we have seen this become more and more of a problem for our senior community. Our senior population should not have to suffer this kind of abuse. This new law will help make it clear that our state will not tolerate such behavior,” said Wilson, R- Smithville.

Wilson’s bullying provision was originally contained in HB 1715, which received House approval but ran out of time in the Senate. SB 732 also contains a provision that will require first responders to report incidents of elder abuse to the Department of Health and Senior Services. Additionally, the bill requires all mandated reporters to report incidents of bullying to the department.

[Missouri] MANDATED REPORTERS OF ELDER ABUSE

Under current law, certain individuals are required to report incidents of elder abuse to the Department of Health and Senior Services. This act adds first responders, as defined in the act, to the list of mandated reports. Additionally, this act requires reporters to report incidents of bullying to the Department.

“Bullying” is defined as intimidation or harassment that causes a reasonable person to fear for his or her physical safety or property and may consist of physical actions, cyberbulling, oral, written, or electronic communication, or retaliation for reporting such acts.


Lessons from Missouri

These findings below are based on reports by Edie Stephenson, the Missouri tenant whose advocacy led to the law on bullying.

  • The bill failed to cover much of the actual observed problem of bullying in multifamily residential settings, where it largely is carried out through tactics that create emotional harm and social isolation, rather than through threats of, or actual physical abuse.
  • Investigators were not trained on the new regulations and did not respond appropriately to persons seeking relief.
  • Although a hotline was already in existence, there has been no public information campaign about the new protections and the reporting mechanism. Notices were not posted in residential settings.
  • Mandated reporters were not notified of and trained on the new regulations.

Therefore, our proposed legislation should include provisions for appropriate training of investigators and mandated reporters, education of tenants, training of landlords and managers, and public information campaigns.


Your voice matters

We welcome your ideas and your experience. Tell us your ideas so we can strive together to make change that will work in your life.

  • Do you agree this legislation will help?
  • What would you change in the bill?
  • What else needs to be done?
Contact: http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/contact

We need your help as well as your advice. Please reach out to your network to spread this message.