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Guidance Note to MCAs on Sexual Harassment

September 30, 2016


The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) recognizes that sexual harassment is a global problem that can harm the integrity and performance of both people and organizations and their potential to achieve their objectives. MCC is committed to supporting workplaces[[The term “workplace” includes work-related circumstances. Given that MCA operations might be at the MCA, or on a field visit to a project site, a narrow understanding of “workplace” will not cover all relevant circumstances.]] where all staff can work together with respect, accountability, and trust. The purpose of this guidance note is to provide the Millennium Challenge Accounts (“MCAs”) in our partner countries with initial guidance on addressing sexual harassment. MCC recommends that MCAs review policies and procedures currently in place, develop new policies and procedures when they are absent, and ensure that their anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures are based on the principles described in this guidance note.

This guidance is aligned with the International Finance Corporation’s (“IFC”) Performance Standard 2 on Labor and Working Conditions, which MCC has adopted as part of its Environmental Guidelines.[[In the United States, sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even in countries where legal prohibitions on sexual harassment in the workplace do not exist, these behaviors can be identified as a form of sex discrimination prohibited under IFC Performance Standard 2.]] MCC plans to incorporate these principles into any future human resources requirements for MCAs.

Understanding Sexual Harassment

There is no specific universal definition of sexual harassment. However, the United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 11,[[]] defines sexual harassment as including “such unwelcomed sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and making sexual demands, whether by words or actions.”

Sexual harassment can be a serious problem in the workplace. Sexual harassment can be humiliating and may also cause health or safety problems for victims and witnesses. A sexual harassment complaint can lead to retribution, for example, when a victim suffers adverse employment consequences by objecting to the harassment. The existence of sexual harassment can also create a hostile working environment for all staff.

A few specific examples of sexual harassment include[[Based on examples noted from]]:

  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
  • Unwanted touching of a person’s clothing, hair, or body.
  • Deliberately becoming physically close to a person’s body.
  • Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted and persistent pressure for dates.
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
  • Unwanted or invasive questions about an individual’s personal life.
  • Questions about an individual’s sexual life.
  • Unwanted comments about a person's anatomy or appearance.
  • Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.
  • Discrimination based on an individual’s perceived deviation from presumed appropriate gender roles, identity, and behaviors.
It is important to note that sexual harassment is determined by behavior, both the victim and the harasser[[Unless indicated otherwise, all references to “harasser” refer to a harasser that is a member of the MCA staff. ]] can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be of the same sex. Men who don’t match standard gender norms can be victims of sexual harassment. Women can be perpetrators of sexual harassment. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as an MCA contractor or sub-contractor (an “MCA Contractor”).[[For additional information on addressing sexual harassment with MCA contractors see Annex I.]]

Types of behavior that are illegal within the partner country may be one aspect of sexual harassment, and all MCAs should understand and comply with the relevant laws and policies within their countries. However, international best practice may exceed legal requirements for preventing and addressing sexual harassment.

Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Key Principles

In recognition of the global occurrence of sexual harassment and its potential impact on programs funded by MCC, MCC recommends that MCAs develop an anti-sexual harassment policy and procedures that reflect the principles described herein. MCC also recommends that each MCA consult with local legal counsel in the development of its sexual harassment policy in order to ensure that proposed procedures do not conflict with local law and function to prevent and address sexual harassment.

The purpose of an anti-sexual harassment policy is to provide every worker with protection and a positive work environment in which to perform their best. Anti-sexual harassment operational procedures should be designed to ensure that the workplace culture is well-informed, safe and supportive, that harassment complaints are impartially and thoroughly investigated, and that there are appropriate consequences for harassing behaviors.

The following principles guide MCC’s approach for addressing sexual harassment and should be the basis for MCAs to review and strengthen or develop their own anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures.

Annex I: Addressing Sexual Harassment in Contracts

MCC has incorporated a “Prohibition of Sexual Harassment” clause into the Standard Bidding Documents (SBDs) for potential MCA Contractors.[[See]] The clause, included in SBDs “Template for Procurement of Large Works with Prequalification” (“Large Works”) and for “Template for Procurement of Small Works”, (“Small Works”) require the contractor to “implement a policy prohibiting sexual harassment.” The SBDs for “Small Works” and “Large Works” explain that the policy to be implemented should be “in form and substance satisfactory to the Employer and MCC”. The SBD “Template for Procurement of Consulting Services”, states “the consultant shall prohibit sexual harassment behaviors directed at Compact beneficiaries, MCA Entity employees or MCA Entity consultants."

MCAs should ensure that contractors are well-informed about existing anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures, and that contractors meet the requirements in the SBDs. In addition, contractors should be aware that MCAs expect their own employees to report any potential incidents involving contractors to the MCA and that MCAs will follow up with contractors. Contractors are also required to establish grievance redress mechanisms that can help to address and respond to information on incidents of sexual harassment and to satisfactorily resolve any incidents of sexual harassment investigated by the MCA.

The “Prohibition of Sexual Harassment” clause in SBDs for “Small Works” and “Large Works” is as follows:

The Contractor shall implement a policy prohibiting sexual harassment, including an incident referral and reporting plan, in form and substance satisfactory to the Employer and MCC. The Contractor shall be responsible for ensuring that all subcontractor’s and Contractor’s personnel understand and operate in accordance with the principles and requirements of the policy.

The “Prohibition of Sexual Harassment” clause in the SBD for “Procurement of Consulting Services” is as follows:

The Consultant shall prohibit sexual harassment behaviors directed at Compact beneficiaries, MCA Entity employees or MCA Entity consultants. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following behaviors: unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature; or offensive remarks about a person’s sex, sexual orientation or non-conformity with gender stereotypes. The MCA Entity may investigate allegations of sexual harassment as it determines appropriate. The Consultant shall fully cooperate with any investigation conducted by the MCA Entity regarding breach of this provision. The Consultant will ensure that any incident of sexual harassment investigated by the MCA Entity has been resolved to the MCA Entity’s satisfaction.

Annex II: Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy Outline

This guidance note in its entirety should serve as a reference when an MCA is reviewing its current policies and procedures, developing new policies and procedures when they are absent, and ensuring that these policies and procedures are based on the principles described in this guidance note. In some instances, an anti-sexual harassment policy may be incorporated into a larger human resources policy for the MCA, in other instances, an anti-sexual harassment policy may exist independent of a human resources policy for the MCA. Regardless of the format of the anti-sexual harassment policy, it is important that the policy contains sufficient clarity and detail to ensure that all parties understand behavioral expectations, responsibilities procedures, and consequences.

Below is a possible policy outline, with reference to specific principles and additional clarification notes:

Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy