3 Tips for Responding to Sexual Harassment at Meetings

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Ensuring the safety of your event is important, but if a sexual harassment incident comes up at your event, due process needs to be considered as well.

1. Make sure the person who was targeted feels safe. “We might need to move their hotel room, provide any additional security, help them travel home earlier, and help them file a police report,” says Entomological Society of America Director of Meetings Rosina Romano, CMP. Following up with them to let them know action has been taken is also important.

2. Decide who has the final say. Sherry Marts, president and CEO of S*Marts Consulting, LLC, advises setting up a system that can decide what to do about a harasser quickly. The board could delegate the responsibility to the executive director, or it could be handled by a small group of designated officials, such as the executive director, president, and president-elect. “This is, to some extent, a safety issue,” she says. “If you’ve got someone doing this at your meeting, you want them out of there.”

3. But don’t be too hasty. Julia Judish, special counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, warns against acting without establishing procedures and providing notice of those procedures to members. “There can be—with the best impulses—the desire to be responsive and take action when something is reported,” she says. But under basic concepts of due process and fair procedures, associations need to give the person who’s affected notice and an opportunity to respond before imposing discipline.

By for Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

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