There is a perception that non-profit and charitable organizations tend to have healthy workplace cultures because of their mission-driven work and a commitment to ethical practices. Much of the time, this is true. But these organizations are not immune from the problems that plague for-profit companies, including discrimination and sexual harassment. Gender politics and power dynamics influence these workplaces as well, and the actions that result can be very problematic.
A real-world example involves one of the largest non-profits in the nation: United Way Worldwide. According to news sources, three of the organization’s former female executives have alleged that they were victims of sexual harassment, retaliation or both. All three women filed separate claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Two of the three former executives separately complained about the same alleged harasser. That man has since been promoted and both women have since been fired. At least one of the women was fired directly by the organization’s CEO. It seems as though the third victim suffered retaliation for speaking up on behalf of others who were experiencing sexual harassment. Her legal case was settled, but she was required to sign a restrictive non-disclosure agreement and a non-disparagement agreement. Therefore, any details discovered about her experience have come from others who know her or are familiar with the situation.
Perhaps one of the saddest conclusions readers could draw from this story is that women can face sexual harassment and retaliation no matter their rank or position within an organization. There is seemingly no level of success or status that either insulates women from harassment in the first place or allows them to demand justice once abuse has taken place. If women at the top of an organization are not safe, those near the bottom face even more obstacles.
It is important to note, however, that women are not the only sexual harassment victims, nor are victims without legal recourse. If you’ve been the victim of harassment, it is crucial to report that harassment to your employer or the Human Resources department. If your employer either fails to adequately address the harassment or retaliates against you for reporting it, your next move is to seek the help of an experienced and aggressive employment law attorney.