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Beyond Anti-Harassment Training: Holistic Strategies for Combating Sexual Harassment

Nonprofit organizations are grappling with an increased awareness of—and renewed focus on— sexual harassment, joining other sectors and industries in the struggle to prevent incidents of sexual harassment at work. A key emerging theme has been a shift away from relying solely on anti-sexual harassment training as an employer’s prevention strategy.  In addition, employers should strive to create a culture of transparency and shared responsibility to encourage reporting and to dissuade perpetrators.

Strategies for creating an effective anti-harassment culture for your nonprofit can include:

Enhanced supervisor training and accountability: Supervisors and managers set the “tone at the top” for your organization, and should actively participate in creating a culture that does not tolerate sexual misconduct. Supervisors should be trained separately on their responsibility to report any sexual harassment they observe, and how best to receive and act upon reports of sexual harassment.
Training and empowering bystanders: Studies have shown that bystander intervention is an effective tool for stopping and preventing incidents of sexual harassment. Coworkers who witness sexual harassment can be encouraged to report harassment experienced by others and use both direct and indirect methods to address harassers.  Bystander intervention demonstrates to harassment victims that there is an organizational commitment to taking action and holding people accountable.

Creating multiple reporting avenues: Victims may not be comfortable speaking to a single designated individual in charge of receiving sexual harassment reports; victims may fear retaliation, fear that the individual will not take action, or believe that the individual will not understand or empathize with their experience. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends giving multiple people in every organization the responsibility of receiving reports to give victims more reporting options.

Achieving gender diversity in key positions: The presence of women in management positions has been shown to decrease sexual harassment. Male-dominated management teams have been found to be more likely to tolerate an environment where sexual harassment occurs, and the presence of women in key positions can facilitate reporting and spur interventions.

To hear more about these concepts and strategies, listen to our recent podcast: Safe Spaces - Maintaining a Safe and Open Work Environment. On February 14, the National Network of Business Law Pro Bono Providers and Jackson Lewis P.C. will be sponsoring a webinar for nonprofit employers: The #MeToo Movement: Strategies to Prevent Harassment and Protect Your Organization. Register now!