Definition of Harassment

Harassment is any behavior which causes distress, feelings of a lack of safety, or physical harm to another person based on their actual or perceived race/ethnicity, religion, age, gender, gender expression or identity, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, citizenship status, geography, place of origin, marital status, or familial status. Additionally, any kind of sexual harassment against anyone, regardless of the identities of the people involved, is covered by the policy below. Harassment does not need to have malicious intent; the impacts on the person reporting the harassment must be addressed regardless of the intent. Displays of derogatory or offensive pictures, graffiti, or materials towards people because one of the identities listed above; demeaning remarks, jokes, innuendos about an employee, participant or volunteer; or remarks about an identity group in the presence of any individual, not necessarily a member of the group mentioned, are also forms of harassment.

Harassment is not:

Consensual banter or romantic peer relationships, where the people involved perceived consent to the interaction, are not harassment. Appropriate performance reviews, constructive feedback and critique, counseling, or discipline by a colleague or supervisor are not harassment.

Responsibilities of Employees and Board Members

All employees, board members, volunteers and program participants are responsible for fostering a safe working environment, free of harassment. A safe working environment is one where everyone is accepted and allowed to be themselves. No one should be afraid for their physical or mental health in a safe working environment. A safe working environment is not free of all criticism or conflict, but those things are handled with respect. Everyone must set an example of appropriate behavior and must report situations of harassment immediately on becoming aware of them, whether or not there has been a complaint. Americans for the Arts, The Board of Directors and any employees who are complicit in harassment are legally liable for any harassment that occurs even if they were not actually involved in the harassment.

Employees and Board Members, who do nothing to prevent or stop harassment or to mitigate its effects may find themselves facing consequences or putting Americans for the Arts in legal jeopardy.

Responsibilities of Volunteers and Program Participants

All volunteers and program participants have the responsibility to treat each other with respect and to refrain from discrimination and harassment. They are encouraged to speak up if they or someone else is being harassed and are encouraged to report harassment to the appropriate person.

1. When Involving Staff in the Workplace:

Our employee Workplace Harassment policy is available in our employee handbook. You can also find it on our intranet and below.

Workplace Harassment

Americans for the Arts is committed to providing a work environment that is free of discrimination and harassment. Actions, words, jokes, or comments based on an individual's race, color, creed, religion, gender and gender identity or expression (including transgender status), national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, veteran status, or any other legally protected characteristic will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment is defined as clearly unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, and;
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Unlawful harassment based on protected characteristics other than gender and gender identity is also prohibited. Harassment based on categories other than gender and gender identity can be defined as verbal or physical conduct that is intended to denigrate or show hostility or aversion toward a protected group or against an individual because of membership in such a group, when that conduct:

  • Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment;
  • Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, and;
  • Otherwise adversely affects an individual’s employment opportunities.

Conduct that constitutes unlawful harassment on the basis of an individual’s legally protected characteristics includes, but is not limited to:

  • Epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping;
  • Threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts based on an individual’s membership in a protected class;
  • Denigrating jokes, cartoons, or pictures based on legally protected characteristics, and;
  • Display or circulation in the workplace of written or graphic material (including e-mail) that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group based on a protected category.

Any employee who experiences, witnesses, or becomes aware of an incident of sexual or other unlawful harassment should promptly bring it to the attention of his or her supervisor. If the supervisor is unavailable or the employee believes it would be inappropriate to contact that person, the employee should immediately contact the human resources manager, the vice president of operations, or the chief operating officer. Employees can raise concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal or retaliation.

Similarly, any member of staff who becomes aware of possible sexual or other unlawful harassment of an employee, temporary employee, or intern by a member, vendor, donor, or other third party should promptly advise the human resources manager, the vice president of operations, and/or the chief operating officer who will ensure that the matter is investigated and resolved in a timely and effective manner.

Management will make a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of all allegations of sexual or other harassment. If the results indicate that an employee or third party has engaged in sexual or other harassment or retaliation, he or she shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Subject to our need to thoroughly investigate claims of sexual or other harassment, such claims will remain as confidential as possible. All employees should act responsibly and truthfully in making and responding to allegations, and providing information in an investigation. As provided by law, management will not retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her right to report harassment or for assisting in an investigation of a harassment allegation.

2. When Involving a Board Member:

Board members receive the following harassment policy in their materials each year.

The Board of Directors is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from sexual harassment. Directors should not engage in conduct that may create a sexually hostile environment for any person, director, or staff, including: making offensive comments, distributing offensive materials, or engaging in inappropriate physical contact. Any director who believes this policy has been violated should notify the chairman of the board or the chair of the Board Operations & Leadership Committee.

As with item #1, should a staff member experience, witness or become aware of an incident of sexual or other unlawful harassment involving a board member (including the Americans for the Arts, Arts Action Fund, Americans for the Arts Foundation, Arts & Business Council of New York Board of Directors), promptly bring it to the attention of his or her supervisor and/or human resources, the vice president of operations or the chief operating officer. Employees can raise such concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal or retaliation. The chair of the Board and the chair of the Board Operations & Leadership will work with management on a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of all allegations of sexual or other harassment. If the results indicate that a board member has engaged in sexual or other harassment or retaliation, he or she shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of board service.

3. Internal Activity Involving a Volunteer or Program Participant

Should a staff member experience, witness or become aware of an incident of sexual or other unlawful harassment involving a volunteer of the organization or participant in one of our programs, he or she should promptly bring it to the attention of his or her supervisor and/or human resources, the vice president of operations or the chief operating officer. Employees can raise such concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal or retaliation. Management will conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of all allegations of sexual or other harassment. If the results indicate that a volunteer (for example a network council member) or program participant has engaged in sexual or other harassment or retaliation, he or she shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of council service or the ability to participate in our programs in the future.

4. When A Volunteer is Accused of Harassment Unrelated to Americans for the Arts

When a volunteer of Americans for the Arts has been accused of harassment or misconduct in an incident(s) not involving our organization, we have no legal standing to address the matter. We do, however, have the responsibility of determining if there should be a continued professional relationship with that individual. To make that determination, we will evaluate validated information in the public domain and, in concert with our written values statement, will consider appropriate action. Examples of a volunteer could include a member of our Artists Committee, Business Committee for the Arts, or an Elected Leadership Council Member.

In these cases, Americans for the Arts will not serve as an investigative body, but will assess the allegations and to determine an appropriate response by focusing on three primary questions:

  1. Would maintaining an affiliation with the accused stand in direct conflict with Americans for the Arts adopted policies and values?
  2. Is the accused compromised in their ability to advance the mission of Americans for the Arts? Is that a temporary or permanent impact?
  3. Would maintaining an affiliation with the accused detrimentally hurt the Americans for the Arts brand?

The following questions may also be appropriate when responding to an allegation of harassment. This list is not all-inclusive, and other factors may be considered as appropriate given the facts of any situation.

  • Has a criminal lawsuit been filed, settled or adjudicated?
  • Has a civil lawsuit been filed, settled or adjudicated?
  • Has a formal complaint been made to a workplace or other authority and what action was taken?
  • Has there been an opportunity for the accused to respond to the allegations? What has been the nature of the response?

Process for Determining a Continued Relationship with a Volunteer

If a situation occurs in which a volunteer is accused of harassment or misconduct apart from their work with Americans for the Arts, the Chief Operating Officer should be notified immediately. Per legal review, when considering the continued relationship with a volunteer, a response is at the discretion of Americans for the Arts based on the written values of the organization. The decision to remove a volunteer from our work will not be done without great consideration. Often, we do not know all of the details in a matter and are made to cast judgment based on what is in the media. The Chief Operating Officer, in consultation with the President & CEO, will make a decision about whether or not the situation requires the temporary or permanent removal of the volunteer from the Artists Committee, Leadership Council, or other relevant body. The decision could take one of three forms: temporary removal from a committee, permanent removal from a committee, or no change in the relationship.

A volunteer may be taken temporarily off one of our committees if there is a pending external investigation regarding a matter that is deemed to cause harm to Americans for the Arts. A person may be held in this temporary status indefinitely on a case by case basis until it is decided that the volunteer may return to the committee or be removed permanently. The decision to permanently remove a volunteer from a committee will depend on the outcome of the external investigation, the volunteer’s actions, and examination of whether the relationship would cause perceived damage to Americans for the Arts.

If the decision is made to alter our relationship with the volunteer, the Chief Operating Officer will notify the staff lead of the Artists Committee, Leadership Council or similar body. It is that staff person’s responsibility to temporarily or permanently remove the name of the volunteer from all active official lists including on our website and database to ensure no further invitations and solicitations will be sent.

If the volunteer is active in our work, the Chief Operating Officer or a determined appropriate staff member may reach out to the volunteer or volunteer representation regarding the decision. If the volunteer is not active in our work currently, the person will be removed from our lists without notification. In this case “active” means that the volunteer has participated in at least two Americans for the Arts programs, written at least one blog, and/or tweeted on our behalf at least three times over the past two years.

If the decision is made to continue the relationship, no further action is needed. That is, unless this decision is made to reinstate an active volunteer after s/he had been notified of being temporarily removed. In this case, the volunteer would be notified of reinstatement.

It is not always appropriate or necessary to communicate when an accusation has been made or a change in a relationship with a volunteer has been determined. Staff may be informed of decisions in an appropriate manner at the discretion of the Chief Operating Officer and President & CEO.