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Sexual Harassment By Non-profit Board Member Toward Contracted Employee

Corporate Law Discussions

Sexual Harassment By Non-profit Board Member Toward Contracted Employee

Postby Bartle » Wed Oct 07, 2015 8:36 am

I am the president of the board of directors for a non-profit membership recreational facility in Virginia.  While we do not employee anyone, we do contract a management company to run the facility.  One of the employees has lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against one of the volunteer board members, who is also a stock-holding member of the organization.  We do not have an existing sexual harassment policy. We have statements from both people involved. What next?  We do not feel qualified to pass judgement on whether harassment occurred. We asked the complainant what resolution would satisfy her.  She said that she just doesn't want to have anything to do with him. Do we have to ask for the board member's resignation simply because the complaint has been lodged? Do we need to protect the board member as well?
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Sexual Harassment By Non-profit Board Member Toward Contracted Employee

Postby Germano » Sat Oct 10, 2015 3:37 am

Hi Andrea,

I just returned from travel from a long flight from San Francisco and will respond to your question now.  

As a nonprofit even though you do not employ people directly, you do contact a management company which is effect employing. It is the nonprofit's responsibility to ensure that the workplace is free of any harassment or discrimination.  I would immediately craft a harassment and discrimination policy and post it prominently on a bulletin board or area frequented by employees of the management company who work there.  That settles one responsibility that the EEOC would ask if the person would take the complaint to that route.  

As far as terminating a board member or asking for a resignation.  You should not ask for a resignation simply because of a complaint for which you do not have sufficient probable cause.  That would be considered retaliation to that board member because you are simply reacting to a complaint as if it were valid and had established probable cause.  Since you cannot establish that, both parties will need to understand that the evidence does not support further action at this time.  Everyone involved with a complaint of this nature needs to be protected to include the complainant, respondent, and any witness.  In cases where it is a he said/ she said or vice versa and there is zero corroborating evidence to support the claim, it is next to impossible to establish any probable cause unless there have been multiple complaints against the board member from other sources.  If that is not the case, I would inform the complainant and the board member that you are unable to establish probable cause and that the complaint would be a matter of record but no action taken for either party.  

Protectng your nonprofit should start with the policy statement and have it read into the record of the next board meeting.  That way anyone on the board now will have this information and be on record as having been informed of the policy.  

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask.  

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