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Rep. Courtney’s Bill to Protect Health Care and Social Service Workers Passes House with Strong Bipartisan Support

April 16, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, cast his vote to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195), a bill he introduced on February 22nd. The bill would curb the rising rates of workplace violence facing health care and social service employees such as nurses, emergency responders, medical assistants, physicians, and social workers. Courtney’s bill was co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of Representatives, including Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE-02), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Rep. Don Young (R-AK-At Large), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-04). The legislation has also received support from a host of health care and social service professionals, as well as unions representing workers in these sectors. Next week, Courtney will host a coalition of Representatives and Senators, nurses, emergency room doctors, and more to talk about the need for H.R. 1195, which has now officially drawn support from the Biden Administration.
The House voted to pass H.R. 1195 on a bipartisan basis by a margin of 254-166 – an even greater bipartisan majority than when similar legislation introduced by Courtney passed the House in 2019. Passage of Courtney’s bill represents an eight-year effort that began in 2013, when Courtney first requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study trends of workplace violence in the health care sector and identify options for OSHA to curtail it. Since then, Courtney has worked with a host of health care and social service professionals to advance this effort. Next week, Rep. Courtney will host a gathering of House and Senate supporters of H.R. 1195, along with impacted health care professionals from Connecticut and across the country, to talk more about the urgent need for H.R. 1195. More information will be available soon, click here for questions.

“Health care and social workers have been waiting for years, long before COVID, to have their safety taken seriously while they’re working hard to ensure everyone else’s,” said Congressman Courtney. “These workers are facing a disturbing level of violence, it’s happening in every Congressional District across the country, and they shouldn’t have to fear for their own lives while they’re at work trying to save ours. Our supporting partners of this bill are the same people you see on the frontlines of the pandemic, the same ones you see when you go to the hospital seeking care for a loved one—they’re nurses, emergency room doctors, EMTs, and social workers. I’ve been grateful to advance this effort alongside them, and alongside groups like the Connecticut Nurses Association, National Nurses United, AFT Connecticut, and many more. They know all too well the severity, frequency, and devastating impact of workplace violence, and they’ve been the driving energy behind this effort from the very start. H.R. 1195 was written and introduced because of them, and it’s thanks to them that we are once again marking a bipartisan House victory.” 

“This year, with more bipartisan support than ever before and the support of the Biden Administration, we can’t let it stop here,” Courtney continued. “While our coalition has worked together to keep pushing this forward, devastating incidents of on-the-job assaults have continued to occur. This is a national epidemic, and it’s ongoing. Passage of our bill in the House today is an important step forward in this effort to curb workplace violence, but it can’t be the last. The Senate of the 116th Congress failed to take our bipartisan bill up for a vote—the new Senate majority should not make the same mistake. They should follow our lead, and move our bipartisan bill on to President Biden’s desk for signature.” 

“Over the past year, we have voiced exceptional praise for health care and social service workers, who have risked their lives to care for ourselves and our loved ones.  Yet, for too long, we have failed to address the high and growing rates of workplace violence for these workers, who are regularly beaten, kicked, punched, and sometimes even killed on the job,” said Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03). “We cannot ask health care and social service workers to wait any longer. Congress has the ability to ensure that OSHA can act as quickly as possible to protect workers’ lives. I commend Congressman Courtney for his leadership on this legislation.”

Background

Incidents of violence against health care and social service workers is on the rise and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2016 GAO study reported that rates of violence against health care workers are up to 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce, and 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults in 2016 occurred in the health care and social assistance sectors. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018 found a sharp increase in serious injuries because of workplace violence among health care workers. A 2020 survey of registered nurses conducted by National Nurses United (NNU) found that 20% of registered nurses reported increased workplace violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Front line employees in these settings interact with a range of patients and clients, often with little training or direction for how to prevent or handle interactions that become violent. The Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care and Social Services Act would ensure that health care and social service workplaces adopt proven prevention techniques and are prepared to respond in the tragic event of a violent incident.  

In 2013, Courtney requested that the Government Accountability Office study the trends in healthcare workplace violence and identify options for OSHA to curtail it, and in 2016 he and other members asked OSHA to develop a workplace safety standard to protect health care workers from this rising violence. OSHA agreed to undergo rulemaking on health care workplace violence, but action stalled under the previous administration. In the absence of voluntary action from OSHA, this legislation is necessary to ensure that nurses, doctors, medical assistants, emergency personnel, and social service workers are not subjected to needless preventable acts of violence on the job. 

In 2019, during the 116th Congress, Courtney’s Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care and Social Services Act passed the House with bipartisan support by a margin of 251-158. The bill was not voted on by the Senate. Since then the epidemic of violence against health care and social service workers has continued nationwide. In February, the Minneapolis Star Tribune announced its support for Rep. Courtney’s bill following a deadly shooting at a health clinic in Buffalo, MN.

Upon introduction this year, Courtney’s Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act received support from a host of health care and social service professionals, as well as unions representing workers in these sectors. A full list of supporting organizations and their endorsements can be viewed below:

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