November 6th, 2011


Your Law Professor discusses WFC, SFWA, Sexual Harassment and Other Stuff

The recent nauseating incidents at World Fantasy Con prompted the following response from SFWA, which all members received in their e-mail yesterday:

“The SFWA administration, employees, members, and volunteers are responsible for assuring that all persons who participate in SFWA programs and activities do so in an atmosphere free of all forms of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Sexual harassment is unlawful and impedes the realization of SFWA’s mission to inform, support, promote, defend and advocate for our members. SFWA will respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment and discrimination of any kind and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and if necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy. This policy applies to any events or spaces sponsored by SFWA, including but not limited to the SFWA discussion Forums, the SFWA website, the Nebula Awards Weekend, and the SFWA suite."

I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of this policy statement. But…

What follows is my lawyer's quibble with the italicized passages. They perpetuate some common misconceptions about the law related to discrimination in general and sexual harassment in particular. I spend a lot of time in my business law classes trying to disabuse my students of these errors, and I wish to help the SFF community to understand them better. I hope y'all will take these comments in that spirit. As I say, I have no problem whatever saying that the behavior at WFC sucked, and that SFWA and organizations do well to try to prevent it from happening again.

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