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Attorneys offer advice on crafting sexual harassment policies

Associations taking hard look at policies covering member behavior can put themselves in legal jeopardy if not thought through

Nov. 9, 2018
By Walt Williams

As many associations review sexual harassment policies in light of the #MeToo movement, attorneys say groups must also consider how to minimize their own legal exposure. That means using clear policy language and spelling out a process for handling allegations of harassment.

The problem with many sexual harassment policies covering members “is there’s no teeth and there’s no process,” said Cindy Lewin, chair of the nonprofit organization practice at Venable. “So when it actually happens, they don’t know what all that highfalutin language means.”

Multiple groups have adopted new anti-harassment policies covering association-sponsored meetings in the past year. At the same time, a handful of associations are reviewing their professional codes of conduct, which could result in loss of membership for the accused in some cases.