HOD to discuss sexual harassment in profession

House of Delegates also to consider proposed bylaws amendments during meeting in August
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Woman with arm extended in self defense postureThe AVMA House of Delegates will deliberate on a resolution requesting that the AVMA Board of Directors consider developing a method to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment in the veterinary profession.

Nine state VMAs and the Holistic VMA submitted the resolution for deliberation during the regular annual session of the HOD, coming up Aug. 1-2 in Washington, D.C.

Delegates also will vote on proposed amendments to the AVMA Bylaws.

Sexual harassment

"The #MeToo movement has been a major step forward in openly acknowledging the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace," according to the statement about the resolution. "There is an opportunity for the veterinary profession to take a leadership position, gather information, and educate veterinary professionals on this important topic."

The resolution would have the Board explore the prevalence of sexual harassment in workspaces such as clinics and hospitals, research institutions, and educational and related settings.

"A safe educational and work environment is critical to a healthy profession," according to the statement about the resolution. "Sexual harassment can occur on campus or in the workplace. While it is not known if there is an extensive problem in veterinary medicine, we can assume that no profession is immune to sexual harassment. It affects all walks of life, affects both physical and psychological well-being and job satisfaction."

According to Medscape's Sexual Harassment of Physicians Report 2018, a survey by Medscape of 3,700 physicians found that 12% of female physicians and 4% of male physicians had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at some point over the past three years. Nearly half of physicians who were harassed said they were harassed by another physician.

Forty percent of physicians who were harassed reported the behavior. No action was taken for 37% of reports, and the perpetrator's behavior was trivialized for 27% of reports. About 22% of physicians who were harassed considered quitting their job, and 14% did quit their job.

The existing AVMA policy "Harassment and Discrimination-Free Veterinary Workplace" provides guidelines to help veterinarians create an employment policy to address harassment, including sexual harassment, and discrimination. The policy is available at the AVMA Policies webpage.

Other proposals

The AVMA Council on Research suggested several revisions to its current charge in the AVMA Bylaws, and the Board of Directors forwarded the revisions to the HOD with a recommendation for approval.

"Several revisions replace items that are simply a description of a specific activity of the COR with goals or objectives that might be fulfilled by those specific activities, as well as others detailed in a working document that the COR will use as a roadmap going forward," according to the statement about the proposed bylaws amendment.

Another proposed bylaws amendment would make candidate qualifications for district representatives on the Board similar to candidate qualifications for AVMA vice president. Candidates for vice president must have been voting members of the AVMA for at least 10 continuous years immediately prior to election and must have served in certain volunteer leadership positions with the AVMA or have had extensive experience in certain other types of veterinary organizations.

A third proposed bylaws amendment was in the works at press time in late June.

Previously, the Board of Directors had sent proposed revisions to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act and two policies on antimicrobials to the HOD for consideration during the regular annual session.

Proposals going to the House are available at the Governance of the AVMA webpage. Members of the AVMA can find contact information for delegates by visiting the Membership section of the AVMA website and clicking on "My AVMA Leaders."