Responding to Allegations of Grantee Workplace Misconduct
We believe that a tolerant and civil workplace, free from harassment or discrimination of any kind, is a critical underpinning to an effective organization. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of MacArthur. To that end, the Foundation has adopted a policy approach to addressing issues of potential workplace misconduct at grantee organizations that (i) seeks to understand whether a potential grantee is facing allegations of workplace misconduct before a grant is made and (ii) to respond to such allegations after a grant is made if and when we are informed of them.
In adopting this approach, MacArthur acknowledges that we are on our own journey to ensure that our workplace meets the expectations we have for others and ourselves: one that recognizes the dignity of everyone, respects differences, addresses fairly any claims of harassment or discrimination, and is inclusive and tolerant. We recognize that no organization is perfect, and there can arise misunderstandings, disagreements, or different perceptions about events. And the actions of one individual do not necessarily reflect the culture of an organization. Yet, our mission to help build a more just, verdant, and peaceful world calls us to take reasonable steps while respecting our role as a funder and the needs of our grantees.
Our Role as Funder
Our approach recognizes the limited role we should undertake as a funder in a position of power and the importance of treating grantees as fairly and consistently as possible. As a global organization, we also seek to understand and respect the different cultural and legal realities in the locations in which we work.
We do not purport to determine any factual or legal issues underlying any allegation. Rather, we seek only to ensure there are adequate systems in place, consistent with well understood good practices to fairly address any allegations, and to understand a grantee’s approach to responding to allegations. Grantees should have practices or policies that:
- Encourage concerns to be brought forward through a variety of reporting mechanisms to persons who are not the subject of the concern or allegation;
- Prohibit retaliation or retribution for bringing forward good faith concerns or allegations;
- Provide for a factfinding process or investigation and determination by persons who do not have conflicts regarding the underlying set of allegations. This could be outside lawyers or consultants. Or it can be conducted internally so long as the persons involved in the process can fairly investigate the allegations, make appropriate factual determinations and recommend or implement remedies as necessary with due respect for the rights of all involved including the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, bystanders, whistleblower, and survivors; and
- Protect confidentiality, as appropriate, recognizing that legal and ethical requirements and the need to investigate may require the sharing of information and make guarantees of confidentiality impractical.
Our Due Diligence Process
Our pre-grant process seeks to understand a grantee’s approach to workplace issues.
We include the following question to all grantees about workplace misconduct as part of our pre-grant inquiry and follow up, as appropriate, including through conversations with leadership and the board of the organization:
Are you aware of any allegations against the organization made within the last three years regarding workplace issues and culture, including sexual harassment, hostile work environment, toxic work environment, mistreatment of or discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, age, or disability, or similar type issues, whether made formally or on social media?
Depending on the answer to this question, we may engage in further discussions with the prospective grantee to better understand its approach bearing in mind the sensitivity and confidentiality of these types of issues.
Our Grant Agreement
In our grant agreement, we include provisions that ensure we are aligned with our grantees regarding our shared expectations and explain our approach should allegations arise. We also include a notification provision to ensure we are alerted to any material developments in this regard. Depending on the situation, we may include additional terms or conditions in the grant agreement to address the particulars of a given case.
Responding to Allegations and the Role of MacArthur Staff
We may learn of allegations or issues through anonymous reports, social media, or communications directly from staff at grantee organizations or others. Program or other staff who learn of allegations are expected to alert the Vice President and General Counsel (VP/GC) and the Managing Director of the program. The VP/GC will alert others who should be involved in helping to respond as appropriate to the situation.
We respect the desire for anonymity and will take reasonable steps to protect confidentiality when requested. Staff should not, however, guarantee confidentiality to a source desiring anonymity because it may be necessary for legal or investigative reasons to share the identity of a source.
When we learn of allegations, we will bring them to the attention of the grantee and request a conversation to learn more while respecting the confidentiality of a source. From MacArthur’s standpoint, this typically involves the VP/GC or another member of the legal department and program representative. We will coordinate the contacts with grantees to maintain clear lines of communication.
The specific people who may be involved will depend on the situation. If allegations involve the staff leadership of the organization, we will request a conversation with the board chair or other board members to ensure independence. We enter these conversations with humility and find the conversations are often mutually beneficial as we learn from each other.
We will inform the grantee of any action that we decide to take or the potential impact on the grant relationship consistent with our values and this policy approach.
As part of our effort to assist our grantees, we collaborated with the Ford Foundation to commission a webinar by the law firm of Morgan Lewis and Bockius on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The diversity, equity, and inclusion webinar is available for free to all grantees and can be accessed using the password: FordMacArthurDEI.
We hope that this explanation of our approach will assist grantees in understanding our approach to these important issues. We are confident that our grantees share our goals of ensuring that we all maintain a tolerant and civil workplace and that working together we can make progress. If you have any questions about MacArthur’s approach, please contact Joshua Mintz, Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary.