Sexual harassment: a brief manual for meeting planners

The sexual harassment tsunami is spreading, even in the meeting world. From the US a useful 8-step manual for event planners.

It seems that cases of sexual harassment are much more common than people would think. Following the survey conducted on 250 American meeting planners, which revealed how about 66% of the respondents were harassed in the workplace, the blog Meetings & Conventions asked lawyer Jonathan T. Howe, senior partner of the law firm of Howe & Hutton Ltd., to write a brief 8-step manual for event planners.

Here are the 8 things to do if an accident occurs.

1. Before the event, designate an individual to address any sexual harassment incidents that may occur.

Sexual harassment: a brief manual for meeting planners

2. In the event of a complaint, write an incident report. Include names of the alleged victim and the alleged offender (or any identifying information, if the name is not known), the date, time, place of and circumstances of the alleged harassment, and a description of the incident.

3. Look for other relevant information, such as the names of other people who might have been involved in or witnessed the harassment.

4. In case of physical harm or threats, ask the alleged victim if they need medical attention or wish to contact law enforcement. Do not take any action unless requested by the victim.

Sexual harassment: a brief manual for meeting planners

5. Include how the alleged victim responded to the harassment in the incident report, and add, if possible, the alleged offender’s description of the incident.

6. If no law-enforcement or medical help is requested, ask the alleged victim if they would like you to discuss the matter with the alleged offender. If the response is negative, retain all information but take no further action.

7. If the response is positive, arrange a private meeting with the alleged offender.

8. In all circumstances, it’s important to keep any opinions and judgment to yourself. Include all discussions in the incident report, and keep the information strictly confidential.

Sexual harassment: a brief manual for meeting planners

Howe points out that this is only a partial list, with minimum indications. More and more companies have extremely detailed procedures and policies that need to be followed in these cases. Planners should be aware of these specific procedures beforehand.

It is often said that there are three sides to every story: the victim’s, the offender’s, and the truth. Which is why it’s essential to be as impartial as possible, and always double-check the facts.
In the current climate, doubtful cases, exaggerations and even fake complaints aren’t unusual. In these unpleasant situations, be sure to consult with your legal counsel as soon as possible, as to avoid any legal problems for both the company, yourself and/or the person in charge of the event.

Sexual harassment: a brief manual for meeting planners

In all cases, the keyword is always the same one: do not be caught unprepared.