5 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Prevent Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace—and no nonprofit is immune, no matter how noble its mission. Nonprofits rely heavily on public trust and goodwill, and the consequences of an egregious act such as sexual harassment can severely jeopardize any nonprofit’s mission.
Prevention is always the best medicine. It’s essential for nonprofits to have consistent, effective internal controls to prevent sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. As an insurance agent, you can evaluate your nonprofit clients’ internal policies and deliver concrete recommendations for updating them. Here are a few guidelines.
- Bring in an outside professional for diversity and anti-harassment training. It’s not unusual for employees to pay more attention to outside experts than they do to internal leadership.
Even if the nonprofit has already run a training program of this type, doing it on a frequent, repeating basis isn’t a bad idea. Some nonprofits have high turnover of both employees and volunteers, and it’s essential for everyone to be up to speed with regard to appropriate behavior—and how to respond to inappropriate behavior.
It’s also essential for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to eradicating sexual harassment and other abusive behavior in the workplace.
- Address complaints immediately. If any reports of harassment come up, it’s essential for those to be addressed without delay—as ignoring them increases the likelihood that they’ll go public or go to court.
- Introduce internal protocols for incident response. Nonprofit leadership should consult with professionals to design a protocol for responding to reports of harassment proactively, listening to victims, and shielding the workforce from perpetrators. With a protocol in place, organizations are better equipped to respond quickly and decisively.
- Conduct careful pre-hire investigations. Before bringing a new person into the organization—either in a paid capacity or as a volunteer—it’s crucial to conduct a pre-hire background check and social media search. While any employee can perpetrate problematic behavior, even if their background and social media checks came up clean, taking this step can help an organization avoid obvious signs.
- Cultivate a healthy workplace culture. A safe and supportive workplace culture is disseminated from the top down. All board members, executives, managers, and others in leadership positions need to be strongly committed to preventing harassment and modeling a positive and safe work environment.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s essential for nonprofits to discuss their workplace harassment prevention strategy with professionals—and design a standardized set of protocols and best practices that can serve as a guideline if the worst happens. With these preventive measures in place, hopefully nonprofits can prevent problematic behavior from happening at all—and the costly claims that arise when it does.