Harassment  & Discrimination Policy

VegLife – Kansas City is committed to providing a safe working environment for staff free from discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment. For the purpose of this policy, “staff” includes Board Members, Executive Directors, interns, and independent contractors who regularly contribute to our mission.

In addition to complying with federal and state nondiscrimination laws, the goal of this policy is to protect staff from discrimination and harassment and create a culture where every individual is treated with respect.

VegLife – Kansas City will operate a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment by investigating any complaint made by a staff member. Any staff member found to have harassed or discriminated against another will face disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from their position with the organization.

All allegations of discrimination or harassment will be taken seriously, promptly investigated, and there will be no retaliation for making such allegations. Complaints will be confidential and records will be kept confidentially. Limited disclosure may be required in order to conduct an investigation, or in the case of imminent danger to a staff member.

VegLife—Kansas City recognizes that harassment can occur between any two or more people, regardless of their sex or gender identity and whether or not they are in a position of power. VegLife—Kansas City understands the need to support those making complaints and those requiring direction for modeling appropriate behavior.

VegLife—Kansas City recognizes that sexual harassment can occur between people of the same sex or gender, including those who don’t identify with a specific gender. During travel for the organization, no staff member will be required to share a bedroom with a person of a different sex or gender, or any other person that would result in their feeling vulnerable or unsafe.

No policy can prescribe what should be done on every occasion because circumstances vary. Staff members needing help or advice about a particular situation or circumstance are encouraged to contact a Designated Person, defined below.

Definitions

Discrimination is the differential treatment of a person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or any other factor that is legislatively protected in the country in which you work (“Protected Classes”). Per federal law, discrimination is illegal in work-related decisions including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Harassment is unwelcome conduct including physical, verbal, and nonverbal behaviors, and results in a hostile environment. Per federal law, harassment is illegal when unwelcome conduct is related to any of the Protected Classes and when enduring the conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or the conduct is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would consider the working environment intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

VegLife—Kansas City acknowledges that this definition may need be revised in the future.

Examples of harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Humiliation in front of coworkers
  • Repeated unwelcome remarks or jokes
  • Exercising, attempting to exercise, or threatening to exercise physical force against a staff member that causes or could cause physical injury to the staff member
  • Comments that promote stereotyping of any of the Protected Classes
  • Comments related to a staff member’s ethnic, racial, or religious affiliation, or their sexual orientation, gender, or age, that are publicly humiliating, offensive, threatening, or that undermine the staff member’s role in a professional environment

Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct that is sexual in nature. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwelcome physical contact including touching, patting, pinching, stroking, kissing, hugging
  • Sexual comments, stories, and jokes, including bragging about sexual prowess
  • Repeated and unwanted social invitations for dates or physical intimacy
  • The use of organization-related threats or rewards to solicit sexual favors
  • Comments on an staff member’s appearance or private life
  • Display of sexually explicit or suggestive material
  • Insults based on the sex or gender identity of the worker
  • Physical violence, including sexual assault
  • Sending sexually explicit messages
  • Sexually-suggestive gestures
  • Whistling
  • Leering

VegLife—Kansas City recognizes that existing federal and state nondiscrimination laws cannot cover all types of behavior or groups of people. VegLife—Kansas City further defines discrimination as differential treatment of any person with regard to organization-related decisions based on any characteristics outside of professional qualifications, and harassment as unwelcome conduct against any person where they feel threatened, publicly humiliated, or intimidated.

The organization is any place where organization-related activities are conducted, including, but not limited to, the physical organization premises, organization-related conferences or training sessions, organization-related travel, organization-related social functions and organization-related electronic communication, such as email, chat, text, phone calls, and virtual meetings.

A Designated Person is a staff member, board member, mediator, or other professional who VegLife—Kansas City determines is qualified to receive and investigate discrimination and harassment complaints. Each Designated Person will read and sign a copy of this policy and complete yearly discrimination and harassment training. There is no requirement for a particular gender identity, racial identity, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.  VegLife — Kansas City will assign the Designated Person role to two people.

Implementation

VegLife — Kansas City will distribute this policy as follows:

  • VegLife—Kansas City will provide this policy to staff on an ongoing basis.
  • Board Members and any paid staff will additionally sign the policy to indicate that they have read and understand the policy.
  • VegLife—Kansas City will include this policy on its Social Media outlets.
  • The Designated Person(s) will sign a copy of this policy to confirm that he/she understands and will comply with it.

VegLife—Kansas City recognizes the importance of monitoring this policy.  To monitor the effectiveness of the policy, the following will occur on an ongoing basis:

  • At the annual meeting, Board Members will include the name and contact information for the Designated Person(s) in the meeting minutes.
  • Designated Person(s) will report the number of incidents, their resolutions, and any recommendations to the Executive Director.
  • The Executive Director will discuss these statistics with the full Board.
  • The organization will evaluate the policy and make any changes needed.
  • At the annual meeting, the Board, in consultation with the Executive Director, will determine if there are any independent contractors who perform work for VegLife—Kansas City on an ongoing basis or others who haven’t already received the policy. The Executive Director will deliver this policy to any who are identified.

Complaints Procedure

Self-Help

Staff are encouraged to keep a written record of the date, time, details of the incident(s), and witnesses, if any. Where staff are comfortable doing so, they can attempt to resolve their concerns by directly communicating disapproval to the person whose conduct is offensive.

Initial Complaint

If a staff member doesn’t feel comfortable approaching the alleged harasser to ask them to stop their behavior, or if the alleged harasser continues the behavior after being asked to stop, the staff member can approach a Designated Person who is responsible for receiving discrimination and harassment complaints. When the Designated Person receives a complaint, they will:

  • Record the dates, times, and facts of the incident(s).
  • Ensure that the complainant understands the procedure for resolving the complaint.
  • Identify the outcome wanted by the complainant.
  • Discuss and agree on next steps: either an informal or formal complaint, with the understanding that resolving the matter informally will not prevent the complainant from pursuing a formal complaint if they are not satisfied with the outcome.
  • Inform the complainant that they have the right to contact legal counsel, if they think this is necessary.
  • Respect the choice of the complainant.
  • Keep a confidential record of all discussions.
  • Ensure that the above is completed within 3 days of initial discussion of the complaint.

Informal Complaint

If the staff member decides to resolve the matter informally, the Designated Person will:

  • Give the alleged harasser an opportunity to respond to the complaint.
  • Ensure the alleged harasser understands the procedure for resolving the complaint.
  • If the complainant is comfortable, facilitate discussion between both parties to achieve an informal resolution that is acceptable to the complainant.
  • If the complainant is not comfortable, achieve an informal resolution by speaking with the complainant and alleged harasser separately.
  • If the Designated Person is unable to achieve an informal solution that is acceptable to the complainant, consult the Executive Director, who may refer the matter to a mediator.
  • Keep a confidential record of all actions taken to resolve the complaint.
  • Inform the Executive Director of the complaint, maintaining the anonymity of the parties to the fullest extent possible; in the case where the Executive Director is the alleged victim or harasser, inform a member of the Board.
  • Ensure that the above is completed within 7 days of receiving the complaint. In the case where the Designated Person has difficulty completing these items within 7 days, they may work with another Designated Person to complete their duties.
  • Follow up 2 weeks after the discussion to ensure that the behavior has stopped.

Formal Complaint

If the staff member wants to make a formal complaint, or if the informal complaint mechanism does not lead to a satisfactory outcome for the complainant, a formal complaint should be made. At the time of the formal complaint, the Designated Person who initially received the complaint will form a committee of all Designated Persons currently responsible for receiving complaints. In the case that a Designated Person has a conflict of interest due to their relationship with the complainant or alleged harasser, or for another reason, they will excuse themselves from the investigation. This committee will proceed to investigate the complaint, or refer the matter to an outside investigator.

Note: The steps below are written assuming the committee is carrying out the investigation.

An investigation will be carried out:

  • Inform the Executive Director of the complaint, maintaining the anonymity of the parties to the fullest extent possible. In the case where the Executive Director is the victim or alleged harasser, inform a member of the Board.
  • Interview the staff member and their alleged harasser separately.
  • Interview other relevant third parties, such as witnesses, separately.
  • Produce a report detailing the investigations, findings, and any recommendations. The committee may not be able to determine whether the incident(s) of harassment took place. For this reason, the committee will focus on a remedy that is appropriate to the alleged incident and ensures proper functioning of the workplace.

A remedy will be determined and implemented:

After completing the investigation, the committee of Designated Persons will consult with the complainant on their preference for a remedy, i.e. a plan for future interactions that is acceptable to all parties, an apology, a change to working arrangements, training for the alleged harasser, discipline, suspension, or dismissal. Based on the complainant’s input and the results of the investigation, the committee will determine a remedy. If necessary, the committee will consult with the Executive Director regarding the appropriate remedy.

  • Keep a confidential record of all actions taken to resolve the complaint.
  • Follow up after 1 week to ensure that the recommendations are implemented, that the behavior has stopped, and that the complainant is satisfied with the outcome.
  • If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome, consult with them to determine why the remedy was not satisfactory and if another remedy is available.
  • Ensure that the above is completed within 30 days of the complaint.

Note: In the case where a staff member makes multiple complaints against the same alleged harasser, and the Designated Person(s) believes the complaints may be a form of harassment, the complainant may face disciplinary action.

Witnessing Discrimination and Harassment

Any staff member who becomes aware of discrimination or harassment, even if they are not directly involved, is expected to report the incident to a Designated Person. The Designated Person will document the incident and consult with the alleged victim to determine if the victim would like to file a complaint. If the alleged victim chooses to file a complaint, the Designated Person will proceed as defined above with regard to informal and formal complaints. If the alleged victim doesn’t choose to file a complaint, documentation of the alleged incident will be retained confidentially so that if the alleged victim or harasser is involved in another complaint or accusation, Designated Persons can consult documentation of the previous complaint.

Complaints Against Third Parties

VegLife — Kansas City recognizes that a staff member can be subject to harassment from a non-staff member who supports or conducts business with Veg Life — Kansas City, such as a donor, overnight host, contractor, consultant, or volunteer (“third party”). A staff member who believes that they have been harassed by a third party is encouraged to file a complaint with a Designated Person. The Designated Person will document the complaint and take whatever action is appropriate in the circumstances.

Complaints By Third Parties

VegLife — Kansas City recognizes that a non-staff member can be subject to harassment from a VegLife — Kansas City staff member. If a non-staff member believes that they have been harassed by an staff member and reports the conduct to a VegLife — Kansas City staff member, the third party will be referred to a Designated Person. The Designated Person will follow the procedure for informal and formal complaints above.

Anonymous Complaints

A staff member or third party may file an anonymous complaint by contacting a professional mediator who is not a staff member of VegLife — Kansas City. The identity of the complainant will be known to the mediator, but not to staff at VegLife — Kansas City. The mediator will communicate the complaint to a Designated Person at VegLife — Kansas City while keeping the identity of the complainant anonymous. VegLife — Kansas City will not be able to conduct a thorough investigation without interviewing the alleged witness or victim. However, if the complainant identifies a harasser, the Designated Person will interview the alleged harasser and keep a confidential record of both the complaint and the response from the alleged harasser.

Conclusion

VegLife—Kansas City endeavors to grow and learn, providing room for improvement in writing and implementing this policy, in the hope that the activists associated with VegLife—Kansas City will contribute to a fair and respectful culture in the vegan advocacy movement.

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