We are the labor organization that represents the men and women who create America’s operatic, choral and dance heritage.
Performing artists live to perform. But their talents, their skill and the beauty they create won't necessarily pay the rent, put food on the table or guarantee the necessities of life. Without
forceful advocacy and defense of their rights, artists may be vulnerable to exploitation or illegal discrimination. They need protection. They can find it by joining AGMA, the American Guild of
AGMA is grateful for, and appreciative of, the victory for
many of our members and all supporters of civil rights from the
Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v Hodges.
AGMA ESTABLISHES A SYSTEM FOR MEMBERS
TO CONFIDENTIALLY REPORT INSTANCES OF ANY
ILLEGAL DISCRIMINATION, INCLUDING SEXUAL
ABUSE, HARASSMENT AND CONDUCT
THAT CREATES A HOSTILE
A number of members, including participants in young artist programs, have reported to us allegations of inappropriate sexual harassment of various types.
Discrimination is not only illegal but it’s also a violation of every AGMA collective bargaining agreement. Sexual abuse and harassment are atrocious, and taking advantage of artists who are afraid of the implied threat of retaliation is the most heinous sort of discrimination.
Although in the past 15 years we’ve received only three complaints about any such abuse, some anecdotal reports allege that conductors, coaches, choreographers and ballet masters, all of whom can effectively make hiring recommendations, comprise the most frequent category of abusers.
The most effective means of stopping harassment is to report it to your employer. Every AGMA signatory company has a policy prohibiting all manner of discrimination and is legally obligated to thoroughly investigate such complaints and take action to remedy discrimination.
In the real world, we’re aware that most performers, singers and dancers, whether they are new to the business or seasoned artists, are afraid that if they file a complaint they expose themselves to some form of direct or indirect retaliation. Unfortunately, it’s a valid fear. However, reporting abuse or harassment to your employer remains one of the ONLY two truly effective ways of dealing with sexual abuse or other illegal discrimination.
The other possible remedy exits because discrimination is also a violation of AGMA’s collective bargaining agreements and Standard Artist Agreements, and so it can also be pursued through the grievance and arbitration provision of our contracts and decided by an arbitrator. But, again, this requires an actual complaint to us so that we can file a grievance on your behalf, and as is the case when making a report to your employer, requires that you personally make the accusation.
A less effective alternative, but one requested of us by some members recently, is for AGMA to establish a confidential reporting system, pursuant to which members could confidentially report instances of sexual abuse, harassment or conduct that creates a hostile work environment without their identity becoming known to employers.
This is the manner in which the system will work: We’ve established a private
to which only myself and Deborah Allton-Maher, another AGMA attorney, will have access. Any member may report any allegation of discrimination, abuse or harassment. Members MUST include their names, which we will not disclose to anyone. While some members may be troubled that such complaints are not wholly anonymous, we need to be certain that reports are made only by members. AGMA will keep each member’s name confidential to the fullest extent of the law.
In making a report, the member should obviously report the identity of the
employer; the name of the person doing the inappropriate act; the nature of the abuse, harassment or discrimination; the employment position of that person (composer, coach, etc.); their work relationship to the person making the report (unless it’s obvious from their position); whether or not there were witnesses to
the situation, including their names or identification by job titles; and any other information you think relevant to the report. Although members can report abuse encountered at non-union companies, we have no ability to influence behavior
among non-union employers. Nonetheless, because conductors, coaches, choreographers and ballet masters often also work at AGMA companies, such reports may be helpful.
Once we’ve received multiple complaints about a particular individual we will notify the employer involved or, if appropriate, the prospective employers of that individual, regarding the kinds of inappropriate behavior in which the individual has allegedly engaged and we will urge the employer to conduct an investigation.
I have to repeat, however, that (1) we will keep confidential the identity of any member making a report, and (2) although retaliation may be difficult to prove, and members are frightened about the possibility, the only thing that’s likely to have real success in preventing sexual abuse or harassment is the filing of a complaint with the employer.
If you need help, or want to report abuse,
Some members asked AGMA to “establish a no-harassment policy”. Only an employer can establish such a policy, and most employers have already established a formal policy. If you want to make a formal complaint, ask us and we can find out the name of the person authorized to receive and investigate such complaints.
Other members have asked us to describe, in greater detail, what kind of behavior is prohibited and how best to avoid sexual harassment.
First and foremost, use common sense. Becoming intoxicated at a company social function or getting into a car with an obviously intoxicated person puts you at risk.
Avoiding fraternizing to any degree with anyone who has the ability to make or recommend hiring decisions may make you uncomfortable—but it avoids potential problems.
Members also want to know what kinds of conduct are prohibited by employer policies.
AGMA signatory employers are obligated to maintain a work environment free from all forms of discrimination and unlawful harassment, including sexual harassment. A typical no-discrimination policy applies to the working relationships between employees and any others with whom contact is necessary to perform the employer’s business.
Federal, state and local laws and AGMA Contracts require employers to maintain a work environment free from discrimination based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, marital status or any other category protected by federal, state, or local law, with regard to any term or condition of employment. More specifically, it is AGMA’s policy to have all employment decisions in AGMA contracts based solely on an individual’s qualifications, abilities and performance, without regard to personal traits. This policy applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, training, performance reviews, promotions, discipline, or non-reengagement.
This policy also applies to all work-related settings and activities, whether inside or outside the employer’s facilities, and business-related social events. None of an employer’s property (telephones, copy machines, facsimile machines, computers, and computer applications such as e-mail and Internet access) may be used to engage in improper conduct.
Neither signatory employers nor AGMA tolerate any form of unlawful harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is offensive, affects morale, and interferes with the effectiveness of our work.
Sexual harassment is behavior directed towards one or more male or female employees on the basis of gender, and can include sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
• Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment;
• Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for future employment decisions affecting an individual;
• The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance;
• The conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive working environment.
While it’s not possible to define precisely what type of conduct will create an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive working environment, it may include verbal abuse or insults of a sexual nature, inappropriate physical touching, sexual jokes or other references of a sexual nature, display or circulation of sexual pictures or other materials, inquiry regarding another employee’s sexual experiences or activities, and other similar offensive conduct.
It is also against policy to engage in verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion towards an individual because of his or her race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, or other protected category (or that of the person’s relatives, friends, or associates) that:
• Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive working environment;
• Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance;
• Otherwise adversely affects an individual’s employment opportunities.
Depending on the circumstances, and under AGMA contracts even if not in violation of a law, the following conduct may constitute discriminatory harassment based on an individual’s race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, or physical or mental disability: epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, jokes, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts, and/or written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility towards an individual or group that is circulated in the workplace or placed anywhere in the employer’s premises, such as on an employee’s desk or workspace, or on the employer’s equipment or bulletin boards.
Both your employer’s policy and ours is to encourage each employee to come forward with any complaints of sexual or other harassment and/or to cooperate in any investigation of harassment. This policy and the law prohibits retaliation against any employee for filing a complaint of sexual or other harassment or for cooperating in the investigation of such a complaint, and any retaliation will not be tolerated.
A typical no-discrimination policy requires that the employer investigate any reported incident promptly and thoroughly. While each investigation will proceed as the particular circumstances warrant, an investigation will—at a minimum—involve an interview with the employee making the complaint and interviews with persons identified as witnesses or otherwise having knowledge of the incident or conduct. All people involved in the investigation will be instructed to treat the investigation as confidential and not to discuss the allegations with others, particularly those not involved in the incident or conduct. In addition, all people included in the investigation will be informed that it is unlawful and the employer will not tolerate any form of retaliation directed towards anyone who makes a complaint or who participates or cooperates in an investigation.
If the investigation determines that any individual has engaged in conduct that either constitutes harassment or otherwise violates the employer’s policies or rules of conduct, appropriate remedial or disciplinary action must be taken. Such actions could include (among others): eliminating contact between the employees involved in the incident, mandating training and/or counseling, or termination of the harasser. Also, the employer will meet with the employees involved to make certain that any improper conduct has stopped, and that there has been no discrimination or retaliatory action against the person who made the complaint.
The importance of following your employer’s policy cannot be emphasized enough. An environment free of sexual and other harassment is not only the law, it is fundamental to how we exist. We hope that, if you believe you have been harassed, you will immediately bring the matter to the attention of the employer or, at least, to AGMA REPORTS.
Reporting offensive conduct to your employer is the best and most effective way in which to prevent inappropriate and illegal conduct.
Employees should understand that most typical workplace interactions will not be considered unlawful harassment under this policy. More specifically, job performance instructions and disciplinary action are not, by themselves, evidence of the creation of a hostile work environment that is unlawful. Conduct will be considered to be unlawful harassment if it is based on the employee’s gender and either results in a tangible adverse employment action or is sufficiently severe and pervasive as to create a hostile work environment.
AGMA signatories apparently believe that they have created a fair complaint resolution process and will be able to work together with AGMA members to avoid the escalation of any inappropriate situation involving sexual or other harassment and to avoid any type of retaliation.
If you need help, or want to report abuse,
If we don’t know about a problem, we can’t begin to solve it.