Nonprofit organizations are subject to the same laws as their private sector counterparts, and are just as vulnerable to the impacts of sexual harassment.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that prevalence of harassment among female fundraisers is as high as 1 in 4 and that in a field dominated by women, leadership positions are often held by men. Beyond the human cost, research has shown that sexual and gender-based violence for organizations may pose serious financial, strategic and operational risks. Many small non-profits do not invest in directors and officers liability insurance, leaving well-meaning board members personally financial liable should the agency be found in the wrong.
Proactive, robust, and transparent policies and practices help organizations prevent and respond to sexual harassment. In this section, you'll find the tools and resources nonprofit leaders need to create respectful and productive workplaces.
Tools for Nonprofits
Real examples of sexual harassment include:
Research indicates there are a range of factors which can significantly increase the likelihood of sexual harassment in the workplace. Some are common and/or inevitable features in small organizations:
[v] Samuel B. Bacharach et al., Harassing Under the Influence: The Prevalence of Male Heavy Drinking, the Embeddedness of Permissive Workplace Drinking Norms, and the Gender Harassment of Female Coworkers, 12 J. Occup. Health Psychol. 232 (2007).
Sexual harassment law, policies, and practices do not prohibit friendships and collegiality in an organization - they encourage respect. A hug, kiss on the cheek, compliment or casual touch is not necessarily sexual harassment. The key is whether the behavior was unwelcome or offensive.
Sexual harassment does not necessarily involve romance or sexual attraction. It does not matter if a harasser has sexual feelings towards the recipient, only that the behavior is of a sexual nature and that it was unwelcome and/or offensive.
Sexual harassment can be perpetrated between any gender. While sexual harassment by a male to a female is the most common, the victim as well as the harasser may be any gender. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
Sexual harassment can involve anyone who plays any role in a business.
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the organization, a supervisor in another part of the organization, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
Sexual harassment can be conduct directed at one or more people.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone who is negatively affected by the offensive conduct.
Sexual harassment does not require an intent to harass.
The intent of the harasser is irrelevant: it is the effect of the conduct on the victim and the organizational environment that counts.
Training & AwarenEss
Maine law requires sexual harassment training for organizations with fifteen or more employees as well as additional training for supervisors. However, all organizations, regardless of size, should follow best practice (and risk reduction) and provide in-person, anti-sexual harassment training for all members of the board, management and staff, during employee on-boarding and on a yearly basis. Organizations should also consider including contractors or vendors who are regularly on-site, or alternatively should request that such training be provided by the third-party entity. Effective training should not be simply focused on avoiding legal liability but must also create a culture of respect that starts at the top.
A key element to prevent and effectively respond to sexual harassment in the workplace is crafting effective organizational policies. Having policies which address sexual harassment and support victims in reporting is critical.[i] Sexual harassment policies must be easy to understand and tailored to the work environment where they will be implemented. Characteristics of effective and legal policies include
Leadership & The Role of Culture
Good policies are not enough. Organizational leadership plays a critical role in setting the tone and creating accountability. It is crucial that organizational leadership foster an organizational culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated and where they lead by example.
Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated - effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company. But a commitment (even from the top) to a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace is not enough. Rather, at all levels, across all positions, an organization must have systems in place that hold employees accountable for this expectation."
-Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2016