Non-profit organizations are usually mission-driven and staffed by employees who share common values and beliefs. For this reason, these workplaces tend to be a good model of what respect and cooperation between coworkers should be. Unfortunately, things aren’t always this way. Even in high-minded organizations, behaviors like sexual harassment and retaliation can and do occur.
A recent and prominent example is a series of complaints leveled against United Way Worldwide. Three female former executives allege that they became victims of retaliation for reporting and speaking out against sexual harassment. Two of the victims were reporting harassment allegedly committed by the same male colleague, who has since been promoted. Of the three women who have come forward, two were fired by the organization’s CEO. The third survived an unsuccessful firing attempt but left the organization shortly afterward.
Retaliation commonly follows attempts to report harassment
In high-profile cases where women allege harassment or other sexual misconduct years after the fact, skeptics always seem to ask: “why did she wait so long to come forward?” The answer to that question is obvious to nearly anyone who pays attention. The sad fact is that victims of sexual harassment (often women) may not be believed. Even worse, they will likely be punished for speaking up against the harassment. That certainly seems to be case with all three of the women who came forward at United Way Worldwide.
Nearly everyone loses in toxic workplaces
Silencing victims who come forward works only to the benefit of those who perpetrated the harassment. Victims have their rights violated, other employees lose faith in the organization and the organization itself loses credibility and reputation. United Way Worldwide was recently named “America’s Favorite Charity,” but that kind of public regard likely won’t last when people learn about how female executives have been treated. Moreover, current and potential employees may no longer wish to work at an organization where half of the employees do not feel safe in their workplace environment.
It is your right to speak up and speak out
If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment or any other illegal behavior in the workplace, you have the right to report what happened and to expect that your employer will adequately address your concerns. If the situation is not addressed and/or things get worse for you, please contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your legal options.