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Writers Guild West Issues Zero Tolerance Policy on Sexual Harassment

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America West have told its 10,000 members that the union has a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment.

“The WGAW supports a zero tolerance policy for any form of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment,” the leaders said in a message sent Wednesday. “Zero tolerance means that every claim of harassment or discrimination is taken seriously, and the investigation of every claim is thorough and transparent. Zero tolerance does not mean the absence of due process, or that there is a one-size-fits-all punishment for every incident.”

The WGA leaders first responded to the cascade of sexual harassment allegations on Oct. 14, nine days after the bombshell accusations against disgraced ex-mogul Harvey Weinstein, saying at the time that the guild was “in solidarity with the women who have spoken out about the abuses they’ve suffered.”

The leaders said the WGA West’s Principles on Sexual Harassment will form the basis of policies and actions going forward and serve “as our starting point toward meaningful change in our industry’s treatment of sexual harassment and discrimination.”

The leaders also indicated that members will not be expelled, asserting that the WGA West “is a union, not judge or jury, and cases of harassment and discrimination should be adjudicated in a court of law or through legal policies of employment.”

Read the full message to WGAW members below:

Dear WGAW Member,

The Board and Officers have identified the following principles as our starting point toward meaningful change in our industry’s treatment of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The WGAW believes the current social outcry against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is not just warranted, it is long overdue. Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination, which is illegal under federal and state law. It is the legal and moral responsibility of our employers to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of these laws. Unfortunately, their policies have historically failed to do so. Since it is the right and obligation of the WGAW to support the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, we must take action on behalf of our members to address these issues. To that end, the WGAW supports the creation of a meaningful industrywide policy agenda that is fair, legal, and effective.

The WGAW supports a zero tolerance policy for any form of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. Zero tolerance means that every claim of harassment or discrimination is taken seriously, and the investigation of every claim is thorough and transparent. Zero tolerance does not mean the absence of due process, or that there is a one-size-fits-all punishment for every incident. The WGAW supports a fair and legal process that is consistently and transparently applied. The WGAW also believes that it is a perversion of due process to implement policies that protect the accused or the employer, instead of the accuser, that create obstacles to investigation, or that discourage victims from filing claims.

The WGAW acknowledges that creativity requires a unique workplace. There are no words or ideas that can be off-limits, and deliberately pushing the boundaries of good taste, or social and political correctness, is instrumental to the work we do. But there is nothing about creativity and humor that requires individuals to fear for their physical or economic safety. Assaulting, demeaning, or diminishing anyone is wrong, and doing so in the workplace based on gender or other protected attributes is illegal. The WGAW condemns this type of behavior, both toward its members and by its members. It demeans our profession and our industry as a whole when a hostile work environment is considered normal or acceptable.

WGAW membership standards are defined by our constitution, labor law, and requisite employment by signatory employers. A writer achieves or retains membership despite any personal criminal history. The WGAW is a union, not judge or jury, and cases of harassment and discrimination should be adjudicated in a court of law or through legal policies of employment.

Because harassment and discrimination are products of an institutional imbalance of power, the WGAW believes that there is no solution to harassment that does not include efforts to address the economic and career disadvantages that burden women and other protected classes. Pay equity and equal opportunity are necessary to the solution. The WGAW will actively seek effective programs that promote gender equality in our industry. The WGAW will also investigate any pattern of retribution by employers toward individuals who file claims or who speak out about harassment. No member of the WGAW should tolerate any form of backlash against hiring or working with women due to fear or discomfort around this issue.

These principles form the basis of our policies and actions going forward. We are committed to not merely stating what is right, but to doing what is right, for our members and our industry. We can no longer leave issues of harassment and discrimination solely in the hands of our employers. In addition to the action items above, we will seek every opportunity for change, including: partnerships with our sister Guilds and unions, surveying our membership, creating awareness and training programs that are actually effective, working to correct the toxic culture of discrimination within our industry, and negotiating policies with our employers that focus on protecting victims rather than the companies themselves. There is no issue more important to a union than ensuring a safe and fair workplace for all. That is our goal.

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