Creating a Compassionate Movement

A long overdue conversation about sexual harassment and discrimination is happening within the animal rights movement. MFA strongly believes this discussion is necessary for us to create a movement built on compassion for every being. In this spirit, we chose to publicly share our anti-harassment policy. Continual learning and constant improvement are core values at MFA. We are proud of our policy, and we will strengthen and enforce it as we grow as individuals and as an organization.

Harassment and Discrimination Policy and Complaint Procedure

MFA is committed to a work environment in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Each person has the right to work in a professional atmosphere that promotes equal employment opportunities and prohibits unlawful discriminatory practices, including harassment. Therefore, MFA expects all relationships among persons in the organization to be professional and free of bias, prejudice, and harassment. MFA also expects its employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner that is consistent with this anti-harassment policy in all their interactions while acting on behalf of MFA or while representing MFA in any capacity.

MFA has zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination and expressly prohibits any discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran. MFA will not tolerate harassment of any persons in the organization by anyone either within the organization or outside MFA. These include people that an employee may interact with in connection with his or her responsibilities, including donors, volunteers, contractors, business partners, or third-party service providers. If an employee has concerns about interacting with a particular person, the employee should immediately report these concerns to a manager or member of the People Operations Department. MFA recognizes that relationships of unequal power or authority, including those between supervisors and their subordinates, may make it difficult for persons to confront or report harassment. MFA understands the need to support persons in the organization in reporting harassment and expressly prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports discrimination or harassment or participates in an investigation of such a report.

MFA encourages prompt and full reporting of all perceived incidents of discrimination or harassment to any manager or member of the People Operations Department. This applies if you believe that you have been harassed or if you witness harassment of another person. MFA’s policy is to promptly and thoroughly investigate such reports. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigatory process to the extent consistent with adequate investigation and appropriate corrective action. No policy can fully describe all forms of harassment. All persons in the organization are encouraged to report any occasion where they feel harassed whether or not the specific conduct is captured by this policy.

Anyone affiliated with the organization who is found to have engaged in any form of discrimination or harassment in violation of MFA’s policy shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Definitions of Harassment

Harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran is strictly prohibited. Under this policy, harassment is defined as verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility, aversion, or favoritism toward a person or his or her relatives, friends, or associates because of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran and (1) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, (2) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person's work performance, or (3) otherwise adversely affects a person's employment opportunities.

Sexual harassment constitutes discrimination and is illegal under federal, state, and local laws. For the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is defined as it is in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Sexual harassment includes a range of subtle and not-so-subtle behaviors and may involve persons of the same or different gender. Depending on the circumstances, these behaviors may include unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; sexual jokes and innuendos; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; comments about a person's body, sexual prowess, or sexual deficiencies; leering, whistling, or touching; insulting or obscene comments or gestures; display in the workplace of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or other materials; and other physical, verbal, or visual conduct of a sexual nature. MFA considers sexual or romantic advances or innuendos by persons in a supervisory or authoritative role toward subordinates within the same department or chain of command, or by persons having authority over staffing or salary decisions, to be harassment for which disciplinary action will be taken.

People and Conduct Covered

Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts; the use of violence or physical force; nonconsensual physical contact; denigrating, crude, or explicit jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility, aversion, or disrespect toward a person or group and is placed on walls or elsewhere on the employer's premises, shared verbally, or circulated among co-workers or third parties affiliated with MFA via email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, blogs, social networking sites, Slack, or other means.

This policy applies to all harassing or discriminatory conduct involving MFA employees and any other people, including donors, volunteers, independent contractors, service providers, or members of the public. Conduct that takes place outside the workplace or working hours may constitute harassment and MFA reserves the right to take necessary disciplinary action for such conduct.

MFA expects its employees to hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct and integrity at all times. Accordingly, any harassing or discriminatory conduct by an MFA employee toward another MFA employee, volunteer, intern, donor, or third-party service provider, whether or not it occurs in the workplace or at work-related events, can be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Complaint and Investigation Process

People who believe they or others have been harassed or who believe they have witnessed such conduct should promptly discuss their concerns with any manager or member of the People Operations Department.

MFA strongly encourages people who believe they or others are being subjected to such conduct to promptly advise the offender that his or her behavior is unwelcome and request that it be discontinued. Often this action alone will resolve the problem. MFA recognizes, however, that a person may not always feel comfortable addressing the behavior directly with the offender and may prefer to pursue the matter through complaint procedures.

It is essential that complaints or concerns be promptly reported so that MFA can take action to prevent further harassment or, if possible, prevent relationships from becoming irreparably strained. Persons who witness harassment or discrimination are strongly encouraged to promptly report any incidents so that MFA can take swift action to address the situation. Failure to report promptly may impair MFA’s ability to thoroughly investigate and resolve the complaint. Therefore, although no fixed reporting period has been established for perceived harassment, early reporting and intervention are strongly encouraged.

Any reported allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation will be promptly investigated. The investigation may include individual interviews with the parties involved and, where necessary, with persons who may have observed the alleged conduct or may have other relevant knowledge. At the conclusion of a thorough investigation, both the person who submitted the complaint and any individual accused of harassment or discrimination will be notified of the conclusion of the investigation, including any findings of harassment and any disciplinary or other administrative actions that will be taken. If the investigation presents a potential conflict of interest for the People Operations Department, it may refer the matter to an outside investigator.

Upon receiving a complaint of harassment, a representative from the People Operations Department will, within two business days, take the following initial steps:

  1. Record all the information received from the complainant, including the dates, times, and locations of the incidents, as well as the names of individuals who may have observed the incidents
  2. Provide the complainant with an overview of the investigation process and ensure that the complainant understands the timing and scope of the investigation
  3. Identify the complainant’s preferred resolution
  4. Inform the complainant that he or she has the right to contact legal counsel, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or legal counsel
  5. Ensure that records of all discussions remain confidential to the fullest extent possible
  6. Take immediate action to limit interactions between the complainant and the alleged harasser while the investigation remains pending, if necessary

After the completion of these initial steps, a representative from the People Operations Department will, within 10 business days, take the following secondary steps:

  1. Interview the complainant and, in the case of complaints made by third parties who observed concerning conduct, the individual to whom the conduct was directed
  2. Interview witnesses or other knowledgeable persons who may have information relating to the alleged incident(s)
  3. Interview the person complained about
  4. Confer as necessary with management to determine the appropriate course of action, including, as appropriate, any disciplinary action to be taken
  5. Prepare a final incident report detailing the investigation, any findings, disciplinary actions taken, and recommendations to prevent future incidents
  6. Inform the parties involved of any recommendations or disciplinary actions
  7. Conduct appropriate periodic follow-up, including meeting with involved parties periodically after any remedy is implemented to ensure that the matter has been resolved appropriately

Copies of final incident reports will be provided to MFA’s board of directors on at least a quarterly basis. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigatory process to the extent consistent with adequate investigation and appropriate corrective action. Information regarding complaints will be disclosed only as necessary for the investigation and resolution of the complaint.

Retaliation against a person for reporting harassment or discrimination or for participating in an investigation of a claim of harassment or discrimination is a serious violation of this policy and, like harassment or discrimination itself, will be subject to disciplinary action. Acts of retaliation should immediately be reported to any manager or member of the People Operations Department and will be promptly investigated and addressed. Misconduct constituting harassment, discrimination, or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

If the complainant does not agree with the resolution of a complaint, he or she may consult with a member of the People Operations Department to explain why the complainant views the resolution as unsatisfactory and propose an alternative remedy. Any party who disagrees with the resolution of a complaint may appeal to MFA’s president or general counsel.

Submitting false or unjustified complaints against an individual may itself constitute a form of harassment. Anyone who makes false or malicious complaints of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Training and Reporting Obligations

MFA is committed to providing ongoing education and training to combat harassment and discrimination. All employees are required to participate in annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination trainings, which will be provided by MFA. Upon completing the annual training, managers will confirm with their team members that they understand how to report incidents of alleged harassment or discrimination.

MFA will provide this policy to all employees, who will be required to review and sign the policy. If employees have any questions about the policy, they will be invited to schedule a time to discuss the policy with their manager or a member of the People Operations Department.

MFA will continue to evaluate and update this policy over time and welcomes feedback from its employees, volunteers, donors, and supporters.

Any manager who receives a complaint of harassment or discrimination involving an MFA employee, contractor, intern, volunteer, donor, or supporter is required to report that complaint to the People Operations Department. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.