Mass. Employers Could Get Jail Time Under New Bill

July 26, 2002 ( - Massachusetts employers could be held criminally responsible for knowingly exposing children to the threat of abuse at the hands of their employees.

That’s the import of a bill passed by the Massachusetts House earlier this week.  A similar bill passed the state senate a month ago, and while the House version was amended to increase the maximum punishment, a quick reconcilement is expected, according to a report in the Boston Globe. 

Both the house and senate passed the so-called reckless endangerment bill unanimously, and it could be on Acting Governor Jane Swift’s desk for signature next week.

Bill Particulars

The bill would create a new crime of  “reckless endangerment to children,” and if found guilty employers could be sentenced to up to 21/2 years in prison in the House version (the Senate version called for a year behind bars).  The measure says that any employer who is “aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that serious physical injury or sexual abuse to a child will result” from the actions of an employee could be charged with the crime, according to the Globe report.

It’s the second piece of state legislation introduced in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that erupted earlier this year. A law that makes it mandatory for priests and other clergy to report suspected cases of abuse was approved in May.

Representative Stephen A. Tobin, a Quincy Democrat and chief sponsor of the House bill, said it would apply to any abuse case, according to the Globe.  ‘It’s unethical and immoral to place children in a situation where they are at risk of being abused or sexually exploited,’ said Tobin. ‘It should be illegal and that’s what this bill covers.’