SDC Issues Procedures for Handling Sexual Harassment Complaints


General Member Information
• Reference SDC’s Statement on Sexual Harassment
• Reference SDC’s updated Rights and Responsibilities

March 23, 2018

Dear Members:

The entertainment field, and indeed all walks of professional life, have been roiled by the revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that have been part of our workplaces for far too long. Since the fall, when this subject burst into the headlines, the SDC Executive Board has made grappling with these issues a key priority. To that end, we have taken a series of steps in order to ensure that SDC is acting in the best interest of its Members and the field as a whole.

Our work confronting sexual harassment intersects with two other central Union concerns, specifically our collective commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and the crucial need for increased political engagement in an environment that is too often hostile to the the arts and to basic human rights. Aligning these initiatives and leveraging our resources is essential.

Since its founding, SDC has had systems and procedures in place to hold employers accountable for the safety of our Members just as the Union has had work rules that set the expectations for Members to model appropriate professional behavior.  As you are aware, last fall we revised our Rights and Responsibilities to more specifically highlight, for our Members, that they have a right to a safe workplace and that they have a responsibility to foster a safe environment at all times. As we work towards a fully articulated plan in this area, our goals are three-fold and consistent with SDC’s mission to Unite, Empower, and Protect our Membership. They are:

– SDC believes the American Theatre must unite to create a safe and healthy workplace, one that reflects the great diversity of the theatre community and fully embraces shared values, which at their core, are intolerant of discrimination and harassment in any form.

 – SDC empowers our Members to promote a safe and healthy workplace through rigorous, on-going education and training, which enables them to stand up to inappropriate workplace conduct while cultivating a supportive, upstanding network of SDC Members and staff.Protect – SDC protects its Members who are involved in wrongful workplace conduct situations through the establishment of clear protocols for reporting, effective inquiries, and utilization of dispute mechanisms for addressing complaints.

To date, our actions have included:

  • Adopting new language as a part of our central Rights and Responsibilities to acknowledge that our Members have the right to work in safe environments free from sexual harassment and the responsibility of doing their utmost to foster safe workplaces, through their own actions and awareness of the actions of those with whom they work.
  • Utilizing the resources of The Actors Fund to provide training about workplace harassment policies to both our Executive Board and staff.
  • Engaging additional legal counsel with specific expertise in sexual harassment.
  • Exploring with the other unions and guilds ways in which we can collaborate to address and prevent sexual harassment.
  • Identifying resources for our Members whose circumstances fall outside the Union jurisdiction or scope of authority.
  • Providing a state-by-state guide to discrimination statutes.
  • Developing a system of confidential reporting and record keeping.

Over the course of the weeks ahead, SDC will begin working in earnest with employers – independent and commercial producers as well as non-profit institutional theatres – to ensure they have effective policies and human resources systems in place. In addition, we are developing a training program for SDC Members, Executive Board, and staff, which will include events in key metropolitan areas as well as an online component. Finally, we are ever-mindful of our Associate Members and those who participate in SDC Foundation programs, and we are working to make certain they have the full support of the Union as well.

Our work in this area is ongoing, and this is not a situation that can be quickly resolved. With your support, we can implement incremental changes in policy that affirm our motto, “Unite, Empower, Protect,” by uniting our Membership in a commitment to a safe workplace, empowering our Members with the knowledge and tools to bring that to fruition, and protecting our Members, and to the extent possible all of their colleagues, for a stronger, fairer, safer world of theatre.

Please keep in touch.

In Solidarity,
Laura Penn


How SDC Can Help

If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, or if you would like to have a discussion about harassment at your workplace, please call Marisa Levy, Associate Director of Member Services, at 212-391-1070 ext. 236 or email her at After business hours, please contact The Actors Fund at 917-281-5919 (NY), 323-933-9244 (LA) or 312-372-0989 (Chicago).

These conversations will be kept confidential.

What will happen as a result of that call?

SDC can assist in finding appropriate resources to support you and advise on next steps, which may include reporting the issue to the employer. It is the employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace, free of sexual harassment and the fear of violence, and to take appropriate remedial action if it becomes aware that employees (or others including interns, consultants, independent contractors, etc.) are being harassed. An employer has an affirmative duty to investigate sexual harassment if it has reason to believe it has occurred, even in the absence of a formal complaint. SDC will help make sure the employer is meeting its obligation. We will also help strategize and discuss options when the employer is the one engaging in the inappropriate behavior.

What is the role of the Member?

As directors, choreographers, and members of the creative team, SDC Members are respected leaders in the room—and it is incumbent upon all of us to lead by example. All Members should model appropriate behaviors and speak up to put a stop to unlawful harassment whenever they see or experience it. The first step is reporting the harassment to the employer so it can be quickly stopped. If you see something, say something. Employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against any person for making, or assisting in making, a harassment complaint. If you have been retaliated against for making a complaint, please contact us immediately. If you are uncertain of how to respond to a given situation, call SDC.

What if you’re a Member and a complaint has been filed against you?

As a union, it is our duty to ensure all Members are treated fairly, in good faith, and without discrimination. If an allegation of sexual harassment has been made against you, and your employer wishes to interview you, SDC can represent you. Whether you need representation or the facts of the case warrant representation will depend on the circumstance of the case, but it is recommended that you request that a Union representative be present, and if the request is denied, to make a record of the denial.


How does the law define sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment has a legal definition narrower than how the term is used in the broader societal conversation. Even if you aren’t sure that what has happened to you is legally actionable, the behavior may be against company policy or be otherwise inappropriate workplace conduct.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, as well as any non-sexual conduct that is directed at an individual because of that person’s sex.

There are generally two types of sexual harassment: 1) “hostile work environment” – where the conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance due to discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, or insult; and 2) “quid pro quo” – where a supervisor relies on his/her authority to extort sexual consideration from an employee that is linked to the granting or denial of job benefits.

Some examples of the types of such conduct that may, depending on the circumstances, constitute unlawful sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following behavior:

  • Threatening or taking adverse employment actions (e.g., hiring, firing, promotions) if sexual favors are not granted, or demanding sexual favors in exchange for favorable or preferential treatment.
  • Unwanted remarks of a sexual nature, including those intended to be humorous.
  • Persistent and unwanted sexual flirtations, propositions, or requests for sexual favors.
  • Unwanted physical touching of any kind.
  • Open displays or unsolicited showings of nude or sexually explicit photographs, derogatory or demeaning posters, cartoons, cards, or graffiti, or use of technology, including but not limited to e-mail, texts, and social media, to circulate or distribute information of a sexual nature or otherwise engage in harassing conduct.
  • Expressing hostility towards members of a particular sex, including but not limited to the use of gender-based epithets, sexist comments, or differential treatment.
What laws prohibit harassment in the workplace?
Federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment, including sexual harassment, and applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against anyone who has filed a discrimination complaint, opposed a discriminatory practice, or participated in an investigation or complaint process.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to sexually harass anyone in the workplace. Title VII provides for a private right of action for individuals, but an individual must first file with the EEOC in order to be able to file a lawsuit under Title VII and must generally do so within 180 days, although, in certain states (such as NY and CA) that time frame is extended to 300 days.

In California, harassment is also prohibited under the state discrimination statute, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Under FEHA, harassment has been interpreted to include any conduct outside the scope of necessary job performance, conduct presumably engaged in for personal gratification, because of meanness or bigotry, of for other personal motives. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) administers FEHA. A complaint must be filed with DFEH within one (1) year of the harassment. Additionally, California law requires that certain larger employers—those with 50 or more employees—provide sexual harassment training to their supervisory employees every (2) years.

New York
The state of New York and the city of New York have their own laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination. The state law is embodied in the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). The NYSHRL (Exec. Law § 296) prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and applies to employers with four (4) or more employees for all forms of discrimination but requires only (1) employee for sexual harassment claims. The statute of limitations for filing a claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights is one (1) year, and complaints may be filed on-line.  A lawsuit under the NYSHRL can be filed in court within three (3) years of the harassment.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) making it an unlawful employment practice for New York City employers with four (4) or more employees to engage in sexual harassment is located in Title 8 of the city’s administrative code. The statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights is one (1) year, and complaints may be filed on-line. A lawsuit under NYCHRL can be filed in court within three (3) years of the harassment.

Legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening sexual harassment protections are pending in many states, and we will update, as necessary, when new laws are enacted. Information regarding other state laws can be accessed here.

Do other laws prohibit sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment may violate other laws apart from the employment discrimination statutes. State criminal law generally recognizes the crimes of rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, and stalking. For example, California Penal Code Section 243.4; New York Penal Law Section 130.

In addition to claims for sexual harassment under federal, state, or city employment laws, state law may also provide civil causes of action for sexual battery, assault, infliction of emotional distress, and kidnapping.

In any of these instances, Members are advised to immediately contact local law enforcement.


If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, or if you would like to have a discussion about harassment at your workplace, please call Marisa Levy, Associate Director of Member Services, at 212-391-1070 ext. 236 or email her at After business hours, please contact The Actors Fund at 917-281-5919 (NY), 323-933-9244 (LA) or 312-372-0989 (Chicago).

These conversations will be kept confidential.

Additional Resources
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to sexually harass anyone in the workplace. 800-669-4000;
  • The Actors Fund provides free and confidential help for those who have experienced sexual harassment. Services include short term one-on-one counseling, referrals for helpful resources, and assistance in locating legal services.
    Los Angeles: 323-933-9244
    New York: 917-281-5919
    Chicago: 312-372-0989
  • Better Brave: Online guide to help targets of sexual harassment understand their rights and options for addressing issues with an employer. Provides a template for recording incidents of sexual harassment.
  • TIME’S UP: Legal Defense Fund that subsidizes legal support for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Administered by the National Women’s Law Center. 
  • Legal Momentum/The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund: Legal Momentum’s Helpline is a resource for women seeking pro bono legal information, assistance, and referrals. Most Helpline requests involve employment discrimination, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
  • New York City Anti-Violence Project provides services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender victims, including counseling, advocacy for legal issues, support groups, and community education. 212-714-1141 (24-Hour Hotline)
  • New York City Human Rights Commission: The Commission’s Law Enforcement Bureau (LEB) enforces the NYC Human Rights Law and responds to and investigates allegations of discrimination from individual members of the public, lawyers, service providers, community organizations, and elected officials. File a claim online or by calling 311. or 718-722-3131 or 311.
  • New York State Division of Human Rights of State Government is responsible for investigating violations of human rights in the workplace, including sexual harassment. File a complaint online or via phone. The website contains information on the process of filing a claim and the steps taken once a complaint is filed. 888-392-3644
  • California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws. The mission of the DFEH is to protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations and from hate violence and human trafficking. File a claim online or by calling their Communication Center at 800-884-1684 or California’s Relay Service at 711.
For victims of sexual assault:
  • RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network operates a National Sexual Assault Hotline and provides resources and advocacy for sexual assault victims.
  • Safe Horizon: New York City-based organization provides free counseling, advocacy, and legal referrals to victims of sexual violence.
    212-227-3000. Email:
  • NY Manhattan District’s Attorney Office-Sex Crimes Unit:
    Effective January 2018, the Manhattan DA’s office established a team staffed by 15 specially-trained Assistant District Attorneys and a social worker to respond to work-related sexual violence complaints. The DA’s office encourages workers who feel they have been victimized due to work-related sexual violence to call the hotline at 212-335-9373.
  • California Office of the Attorney General: The Victims’ Services Unit (VSU) offers crime victims and their families support and information at every stage of the criminal process. 877-433-9069 or
  • Victims of Crime Resource Center (CA): The Center operates California’s confidential, toll-free 1-800-VICTIMS line and provides information and referrals statewide to victims, their families, victim service providers, and victim advocates. The Center is mandated by legislation, California Penal Code Section 13897, and is funded through the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA).
  • You also may contact your state or local bar association, which should provide you with referrals and/or access to free legal services.

This material is intended to provide general information and not serve as legal advice on any particular matter.  If you are considering taking legal action, you are advised to consult with a licensed attorney. 

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