A survey about sexual harassment conducted by the WGA East has found that there are “significant barriers to people reporting when they have experienced sexual harassment,” according to Lowell Peterson, the guild’s executive director. Among those obstacles to reporting, he wrote in a recent letter the guild’s members and council, are “fear of career damage, lack of confidence that the employer would take real action, and fear of the perpetrator.”
The survey asked a series of questions about employer policies and practices, including sexual harassment training, and “suffice it to say,” Peterson wrote, “that respondents did not find employer-sponsored sexual harassment training to be a meaningful approach; many people didn’t even know if their employers offered this training, and many who took the training said it was not helpful.”
The guild, which conducted the survey in January and February, pointedly did not ask members to report their own experiences with sexual harassers. “We chose not to use the survey as a means of asking people to report their own incidents of sexual misconduct on the job,” Peterson explained. “Our thought was that a survey would not be the most useful or attuned way to have that conversation.” The survey was confidential, and specific responses are not being made public.
“We wanted to hear from members about continuing work to combat sexual harassment and similar sexual misconduct,” Peterson wrote. “Members expressed interest in meetings and other ways to take further action. People had a fairly broad range of views about exactly what form the ongoing work should take, so we will work carefully to put together a variety of programs.”
The guild issued a pledge last month about how it will deal with sexual harassment claims. “We understand that sexual harassment exists in the broader context of sexism and power imbalance, and our union is committed to transforming the culture and power dynamics that currently exist in our industries,” the pledge states. “This requires collective action as well as individual representation. We understand that addressing issues of sexual harassment and other inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace requires us to foster a culture of mutual support with our members and with each other as union representatives.”
The guild, whose sexual harassment Resource Guide can be viewed here, said that its responsibilities when speaking with its members about sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct in the workplace include:
1. We will respond promptly to each member inquiry and communication
2. We will be compassionate and respectful
3. We will believe, and not second-guess or doubt, members who bring incidents or concerns about sexual harassment to our attention
4. We will assist the member to the extent the member wants us to do so, including: Helping document what has happened; identifying the employer’s policies and processes on sexual harassment and other inappropriate sexual misconduct in the workplace; assisting the member navigate those processes, if appropriate; determining the extent to which there might be remedies available under the relevant collective bargaining agreement, and identifying additional resources.
As part of its pledge, the guild also noted: “We recognize that members who have been identified as perpetrators might also contact the union for assistance. We will ensure that the same union representative will not work with both the alleged perpetrator and the person who has been the object of the harassment or inappropriate conduct.”
The guild’s sister union, the WGA West, has conducted a similar survey, to which more than 2,000 of its members – about a fifth of its active membership – responded. When that survey was sent to members in February, WGA West leaders said it would help them “understand how well or badly our employers are doing, or have done in the past, in dealing with complaints.”
“Our goal with this survey is to isolate and respond to a specific, dangerous, and timely problem so that we can move to find effective solutions both in our role as a labor union and in cooperation with other industry groups,” guild leaders said.
The WGA West issued a Statement of Principles on Sexual Harassment in January that “supports a zero-tolerance policy for any form of workplace discrimination, for any form of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment,” and “condemns this type of behavior, both toward its members and by its members.”