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January 15, 2021

Harassment, discrimination policy revised along with others

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The AVMA Board of Directors approved revisions to a number of policies at its Nov. 18-19, 2020, virtual meeting, including those on harassment and discrimination, antimicrobial use in swine, and assessing new treatments for alleviating pain in animals.

The AVMA Council on Veterinary Services received a request from the Board—originating with the AVMA House of Delegates—that the policy “Harassment and Discrimination-Free Veterinary Workplace” be reviewed again ahead of its regular five-year review. The council asked AVMA staff members in human resources and the AVMA’s general counsel to review the document.

Hostile work environment claim

The policy is intended as a starting point for AVMA members and not as a definitive statement of the laws concerning harassment and discrimination, given that anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws may differ greatly from state to state and from city to city.

The main changes were including the wording “actual or perceived” before “protected class” or “protected status,” which may include but not be limited to such categories as sex, color, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or parental status, military or veteran status, medical condition, citizenship status, pregnancy status, or physical or mental disability. The policy also now states, “Some states require employers to conduct mandatory anti-harassment/anti-discrimination training for staff annually or within other specified timeframes; this training may also be required to maintain professional licensure.”

In other Board actions, members endorsed the most recent version of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ Basic Guidelines of Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials in Swine. The AVMA previously issued an endorsement for a similar document, the AASV Basic Guidelines of Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials in Pork Production. The revised version of that document was drafted by the AASV and approved by its board of directors this past October.

Notable revisions are as follows:

  • A change in title to recognize that the judicious therapeutic use of antimicrobials is a core principle of the broader goal of antimicrobial stewardship and should be adhered to for all swine regardless of their intended use.
  • The document was made more concise to support understanding and encourage adoption.
  • Adjustments were made to better align the document with the AVMA policies on “Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials” and “Antimicrobial Stewardship Definition and Core Principles.”

The Board also voted to revise the policy “Assessment of New Therapies for Alleviation of Pain in Animals.”

The AVMA Council on Research reviewed the policy in accordance with the five-year review cycle and felt that the policy should more clearly dissuade researchers from initiating pain studies that would include untreated control groups, when possible.

“With the addition of ‘control groups that reflect current standard of care,’ the AVMA would be advocating that control groups in pain studies should be treated with analgesic drugs currently approved and used in the species of study but would not be precluding investigation of an analgesic drug in a species for which there are no currently approved analgesics available for use in the control group,” the background materials from the committee state.