Combatting Harassment in the Workplace
Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated in our workplaces or in our union and are specifically banned under Article III of the Communications Workers of America (also known as CWA, our parent union) Constitution: https://cwa-union.org/for-locals/cwa-constitution#A3. The NewsGuild of New York is committed to being transparent and accessible for all of our members facing harassment and/or discrimination.
NYGuild encourages any member who feels they have been subject to harassment and/or discrimination--whether from their employer, another Guild member or NYGuild staff--to speak with a unit or Local officer, steward, or your Local Representative, if appropriate, as a first step. If you are not comfortable doing so for any reason, please file a complaint, which will be confidentially transmitted to the NYGuild President.
You may, as an alternative, submit a complaint to our international union, The NewsGuild.
While it is not easy to define precisely what harassment is, it includes conduct that is abusive, demeaning or disparaging, such as slurs, epithets, threats, derogatory comments or visual depictions, unwelcome jokes and teasing. Discrimination means unequal or disparate treatment of an employee as compared to another regarding an employee's terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
Read the letter to our membership about our commitment to combating harassment in the workplace:
Dear NewsGuild members,
Each new report of sexual harassment we read about is a reminder of how much work is left to be done to create safe and fair workplaces. High-profile cases have been making most of the headlines, but the fact is, sexual harassment affects workplaces of all kinds.
It’s easy for us to applaud the courageous people who are stepping forward to identify sexual harassers in their workplace. Many of us have stood in solidarity with these individuals through social media, statements of support and public outrage at the aggressor. It’s not enough. The Guild believes it’s time to further this conversation in our own newsrooms through education, advocacy and action.
The Guild is here to advocate for your fair treatment at work, full stop. That includes fighting sexual and gender-based harassment that prevents you from doing your jobs safely. We will stand with you in any way you need, including the following: confidential reporting, assisting with filing harassment-related grievances, supporting you during a mediation, counseling about outside options you can take, or taking action through a campaign or other organizing effort to address harassment in the workplace. We encourage you to reach out to us for support.
We want to ask each of you to commit to furthering this conversation and standing up for each other in your shops as well. As one of our own members wrote for the New York Times, the best way to fight back against harassment in the workplace is through collective action. Our solidarity must include standing with our colleagues across the industry who face harassment on the job. We are committing to be there for you, and we ask that you commit to be there for each other.
How to Recognize Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can come in many forms. At its core, harassment is unwelcome behavior or comments that take advantage of power imbalances (which might be related to workplace hierarchies, gender, race, or other identities). This might include physical contact, or it could be verbal. Sexual harassment takes a real and significant toll no matter the form it takes, and it is never the fault of the person experiencing harassment.
Harassment is a serious workplace issue. It directly inhibits our members’ ability to thrive in their work and represents an abuse of power in the workplace. Sometimes sexual harassment is positioned as a quid pro quo, where the harasser demands a sexual favor in exchange for professional advancement or not being disciplined or fired. Other times harassment builds up over time, creating a hostile work environment that makes it impossible to focus or do quality work. All harassment on the job is unacceptable.
A non-exhaustive list of examples of harassment includes:
- Comments that refer to a person’s appearance, sexuality, or body parts
- Making sexually explicit or inappropriate jokes, either in person or online
- Sending or requesting sexually graphic pictures
- Asking a coworker for sex or dates
- Inappropriate or sexualized touching
- Bullying or persistent behavior that judges on the basis of gender expression or gender identity
- Misgendering or refusing to respect a person’s chosen name and pronouns
Other Forms of Harassment
The other form of harassment is known as “hostile environment” harassment. A hostile work environment is a workplace in which unwelcome comments or conduct based on gender, race, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment for the employee who is being harassed.
How the Guild Can Help
While there are common themes across harassment experiences, the Guild recognizes that each situation is different and each person facing harassment has different needs and preferences. We cannot promise that all of the options below are feasible in every case, but we can promise to support you as best as we can with the path you choose to take.
Here are some of the ways the Guild has assisted members in the past or could potentially assist a member dealing with harassment in the workplace:
- Confidential listening: If you would like to share an experience with a boss or a co-worker but aren’t ready to take action yet, you are welcome to share it with your Guild Representative confidentially first (you can also approach a steward or other unit leader and ask them to facilitate a conversation with your Guild Representative). We are not mandated to refer reports to the police or to your company’s HR (though in extreme circumstances affecting other represented employees, we might need to appoint another Local Representative or take some action to fairly represent all employees and enforce a collective bargaining agreement).
- Complaint support: Depending on the nature of your complaint, Unit and Local officers and staff can advocate for or with you if you choose to file a complaint -- either against your employer or with the Guild. They can also help ensure you do not face retaliation for making a report.
- Filing a grievance: If you and/or a group of coworkers would like to file a formal grievance against your employer for persistent inaction or insufficient responses to harassment reports, Local Representatives and appropriate leadership can facilitate that process.
- Counseling about outside options you can take: Though we can’t assist with filing a lawsuit or an EEOC complaint, we can connect you to resources or referrals for doing so.
- Taking action through collective action or other organizing efforts to address harassment in the workplace: If you’d like to organize collective action around harassment in your workplace, we can support you every step of the way.
How to Support a Coworker Facing Harassment
- Listen without judgment, and let your colleague lead the conversation.
- Reassure them that you believe them and what happened was not their fault.
- Thank them for trusting you enough to share their experience.
- Let them know you’ll support them in whatever steps they choose to take.
- When they’re ready, offer to connect them to resources like the Guild and support them in reaching out for help.
What Happens after a Complaint is Filed?
Once you've filed a complain of harassment and/or discrimination -- either directly with a Local Representative, an Officer or through the NYGuild Harassment and Discrimination Complaint form -- a follow up discussion will be scheduled to review possible next steps. While there are common themes across harassment experiences, the Guild recognizes that each situation is different and each person facing harassment has different needs and preferences. It is our obligation to help members experiencing harassment.
For more information:
The NewsGuild: Sexual Harassment At Work: Know Your Rights
AAUW: Know Your Rights at Work
U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission: Sexual Harassment
From the Society of Professional Journalists: Resources for combating sexual harassment in the newsroom
Better Brave: Guide for Targets of Sexual Harassment and Guide for Documenting Incidents of Harassment