HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 3228        FILED ON: 1/16/2015

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 522

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

_________________

PRESENTED BY:

Paul R. Heroux

_________________

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
Court assembled:

The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents of public or privately-owned, subsidized multifamily housing developments.

_______________

PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

Paul R. Heroux

2nd Bristol

Evandro C. Carvalho

5th Suffolk

Marjorie C. Decker

25th Middlesex

Colleen M. Garry

36th Middlesex

Carlos Gonzalez

10th Hampden

Jason M. Lewis

Fifth Middlesex

John W. Scibak

2nd Hampshire

Alan Silvia

7th Bristol

Benjamin Swan

11th Hampden

Bruce E. Tarr

First Essex and Middlesex

Paul Tucker

7th Essex

Chris Walsh

6th Middlesex

Ellen Story

3rd Hampshire


HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 3228        FILED ON: 1/16/2015

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 522

By Mr. Heroux of Attleboro, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 522) of Paul R. Heroux and others for legislation to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents of public or privately-owned subsidized multifamily housing developments.  Elder Affairs.

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

_______________

In the One Hundred and Eighty-Ninth General Court
(2015-2016)

_______________

 

An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents of public or privately-owned, subsidized multifamily housing developments.

 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

Section _____(a) As used in this section the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meaning:-

“Bullying”, the repeated use by one or more residents or employees of, or visitors to, a covered residential community of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at a covered residential community; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a covered residential community. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying, group or social bullying, and mobbing.

“Covered residential community”, a public or privately-owned, multifamily residential housing development subsidized in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and intended for occupancy primarily by elderly persons aged 55 or older and/or persons with disabilities.

“Cyber-bullying”, bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications. Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or (ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying. Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying.

“The Division”, the Public Safety Division of the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s Office;

“Group or social bullying” is the attempt by several persons acting together to engage in bullying conduct toward one or more victims by intentional, repeated, aggressive speech or action capable of causing harm.

“Hostile environment”, a situation in which bullying causes the residential environment to be permeated with intimidation, ridicule or insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to interfere with a resident’s peaceful enjoyment of their tenancy or rights as a tenant.

“Mobbing” is bullying that the owner/manager allows, or that management takes part in, with the purpose of demeaning the victim and excluding them from the social life, quiet enjoyment of occupancy, or occupancy status in a covered residential community .

“Owner/managers,” the owner of a covered residential community and/or the property manager or management agent responsible for managing a covered residential community

“Plan”, a bullying prevention and intervention plan established pursuant to subsection (d).

“Perpetrator”, a person who engages in bullying or retaliation, or an owner/management company whose employees engage in, support or enable bullying, group or social bullying or mobbing.

“Residential property and grounds”, property on which a covered residential community is located or property that is owned, leased or used by an owner/manager or group of residents for an activity, function, program, instruction or training related to the operation of the residential community.

“Victim”, a person against whom bullying, group or social bullying, mobbing, or retaliation has been perpetrated.

(b) Bullying shall be prohibited: (i) on residential property and grounds, at a owner/manager or resident sponsored activity, function or program whether on or off residential grounds or through the use of technology or an electronic device owned, leased or used by an owner/manager (ii) at a location, activity, function or program that is not located within the covered residential community, or through the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased or used an owner/manager, if the bullying creates a hostile environment in a covered residential community for the victim, infringes on the rights of the victim at a covered residential community or materially and substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a covered residential community. Nothing contained herein shall require an owner/manager to staff any non-residence related activities, functions, or programs.

Retaliation against a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying, or witnesses or has reliable information about bullying shall be prohibited.

(c) Each owner/manager of a covered residential community shall provide appropriate instruction on bullying prevention to all employees and residents of a covered residential community. The curriculum shall be evidence-based.

(d) Each covered residential community shall develop, adhere to and update a plan to address bullying prevention and intervention in consultation with residents, any legitimate residents’ association as defined by 24 CFR Part 245, resident support organizations, owner/manager service employees, on-site management staff, professional support personnel, community representatives, local law enforcement agencies, and Division staff. . The consultation shall include, but not be limited to, notice and a public comment period. The plan shall be updated at least biennially.

Each plan shall include, but not be limited to: (i) descriptions of and statements prohibiting bullying, group or social bullying, mobbing, cyber-bullying and retaliation; (ii) clear procedures for residents, owner/manager employees, visitors, relatives, partners, guardians and others to report bullying or retaliation; (iii) a provision that reports of bullying or retaliation may be made anonymously; provided, however, that no disciplinary action shall be taken against a resident or owner/manager employee solely on the basis of an anonymous report; (iv) clear procedures for promptly responding to and investigating reports of bullying or retaliation; (v) the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying or retaliation; provided, however, that the disciplinary actions shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior; (vi) clear procedures for restoring a sense of safety for a victim and assessing that victim’s needs for protection; (vii) strategies for protecting from bullying or retaliation a person who reports bullying, provides information during an investigation of bullying or witnesses or has reliable information about an act of bullying; (viii) procedures consistent with state and federal law for promptly notifying the relatives, partners or guardians of a victim and a perpetrator, if appropriate; provided, further, that the relatives, partners and guardians of a victim shall also be notified of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation, if appropriate; and provided, further, that the procedures shall provide for immediate notification pursuant to regulations promulgated under this subsection by the owner/manager the Division or person who holds a comparable role to the local law enforcement agency when criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator; (ix) a provision that a person who knowingly makes a false accusation of bullying or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action; and (x) a strategy for providing counseling or referral to appropriate services for perpetrators and victims and for appropriate family members of said residents. The plan shall afford all residents the same protection regardless of their status under the law.

An owner/manager may establish separate discrimination or harassment policies that include categories of residents. Nothing in this section shall prevent an owner/manager from remediating any discrimination or harassment based on a person’s membership in a legally protected category under local, state or federal law.

The plan for a covered residential community shall include a provision for ongoing professional development to build the skills of all employees, including, but not limited to, on-site managers, social service or resident service coordinators, maintenance and office clerical staff, to prevent, identify and respond to bullying. The content of such professional development shall include, but not be limited to: (i) appropriate strategies to prevent bullying incidents; (ii) appropriate strategies for immediate, effective interventions to stop bullying incidents; (iii) information regarding the complex interaction and power differential that can take place between and among a perpetrator, victim and witnesses to the bullying; (iv) research findings on bullying, including information about specific categories of residents who have been shown to be particularly at risk for bullying in the environment or covered residential communities; (v) information on the incidence and nature of cyber-bullying; and (vi) internet safety issues as they relate to cyber-bullying. The Division shall identify and offer information on alternative methods for fulfilling the professional development requirements of this section, at least 1 of which shall be available at no cost to owners/managers of covered residential communities.

The plan shall include provisions for informing relatives, partners and guardians about the bullying prevention curriculum of the covered residential community and shall include, but not be limited to: (i) how relatives, partners and guardians can reinforce the curriculum and support the owner/manager or Division plan; (ii) the dynamics of bullying; and (iii) online safety and cyber-bullying.

The Division shall promulgate rules and regulations on the requirements related to an owner/agent’s duties under clause (viii) of the second paragraph of this subsection A. .

(e)(1) Each owner/manager shall provide to residents, their partners, relatives and guardians, in appropriate terms and in the languages which are most prevalent among the residents, parents, children, partners or guardians, annual written notice of the relevant resident-related sections of the plan.

(2) Each owner/manager shall provide to all employees of a covered residential community annual written notice of the plan. The employees at each covered residential community shall be trained annually on the plan. Relevant sections of the plan relating to the duties of employees shall be included in an owner/agent employee handbook.

(3) The plan shall be posted on the website of each owner/manager of a covered residential community.

(f) Each owner/manager shall be responsible for the implementation and oversight of the plan at his or her covered residential community.

(g) Any employee of a covered residential community, including on-site management staff, social service or resident service coordinator, maintenance or clerical staff, shall immediately report any instance of bullying or retaliation the staff member has witnessed or become aware of to owner/manager official identified in the plan as responsible for receiving such reports or both. Upon receipt of such a report, the owner/manager or a designee shall promptly conduct an investigation. If the owner/manager or a designee determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the owner/manager or designee shall (i) notify the local law enforcement agency if the owner/manager or designee believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator; (ii) take appropriate disciplinary action; (iii) notify the relatives, partners or guardians of a perpetrator, as appropriate; and (iv) notify the relatives, partners or guardians of the victim, as appropriate, and to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation.

(h) If an incident of bullying or retaliation involves residents from more than one covered residential communities, the owner/manager representative first informed of the bullying or retaliation shall, consistent with state and federal law, promptly notify the appropriate administrator of the other covered residential community so that both may take appropriate action. If an incident of bullying or retaliation occurs on the grounds of a covered residential community and involves a former resident or employee who is no longer involved in a covered residential community, the owner/manager informed of the bullying or retaliation shall contact law enforcement consistent with the provisions of clause (viii) of the second paragraph of subsection (d).

(i) Nothing in this section shall supersede or replace existing rights or remedies under any other general or special law, nor shall this section create a private right of action.

(j) The Division, after consultation with the department of public health, the department of mental health, the department of elder affairs, the office on disability, the department of housing and community development, Mass Housing, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, representatives of areawide tenant organizations representing residents of covered residential communities, representatives of area wide associations of resident service coordinators and owner/managers, and experts on bullying, group or social bullying, and mobbing shall: (i) publish a model plan for owner/managers to consider when creating their plans; and (ii) compile a list of bullying prevention and intervention resources, evidence-based curricula, best practices and academic-based research that shall be made available to covered residential communities. .. The resources may include, but shall not be limited to, print, audio, video or digital media; subscription based online services; and on-site or technology-enabled professional development and training sessions. The Division shall biennially update the model plan and the list of the resources, curricula, best practices and research and shall post them on its website.