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March 01, 2020

AVMA develops plan for combating sexual harassment in profession

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AVMA leadership on Jan. 10 reviewed an Association-prepared report on sexual harassment in the workplace and a plan for how the AVMA will help the veterinary profession address the problem.

The report, developed by the AVMA Board of Directors, comes at the direction of an AVMA House of Delegates resolution from this past July. That resolution dealt with sexual harassment awareness and was submitted by 10 state and allied VMAs.

In addition to formally recognizing the seriousness of the issue, the resolution requested that the Board review existing AVMA sexual harassment policies and develop additional resources for members. Further, the House resolution recommended that the Board update delegates by the 2020 HOD regular winter session, being held Jan. 10-11.

AVMA Board of Directors Chair Rena Carlson and Montana Delegate Rex Anderson
AVMA Board of Directors Chair Rena Carlson and Montana Delegate Rex Anderson present the AVMA report on sexual harassment during the winter session of the House of Delegates, Jan. 10-11 in Chicago. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The Board shared its report with the House in early December 2019. The report had the following four action steps for the AVMA:

  • Update the AVMA website in 2020 to include additional resources on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and provide assistance to both veterinary employers and employees.
  • Include continuing education programs related to preventing sexual harassment on AVMA Axon, the Association’s online CE platform, such as the Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program.
  • Identify specific workplace harassment training programs to recommend to veterinary practices.
  • Request that the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service conduct a review this year of the AVMA policy on “Harassment and Discrimination-Free Veterinary Workplace,” in collaboration with the AVMA Department of Human Resources, for continued relevance and scope.

AVMA resources and programs need not be limited to sexual harassment, the report noted, but should address workplace harassment and discrimination broadly, also accounting for illegal workplace conduct based on race, ethnicity, and religion.

On Jan. 10, during the Veterinary Information Forum portion of the HOD’s winter session in Chicago, Dr. Rena Carlson, chair of the AVMA Board of Directors, and Dr. Rex Anderson, Montana delegate and member of the House Advisory Committee, reviewed the report and plan for delegates.

“The Board did exactly what we asked them to do,” Dr. Anderson said. “What happens now is up to us.”