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Allegations of Sexual Harassment Hang Over Legal Conference

A provocative post on LinkedIn charges widespread instances of inappropriate sexual advances at a recent meeting. Here’s the response from the organizer plus important resources for planners developing and enforcing a conference code of conduct.

New York Legalweek, a conference organized by ALM that attracts about 6,000 legal-industry attendees, is under fire for reports of sexual harassment around its January 29-February 1 event.

The anonymous accusations were chronicled on LinkedIn after the conference by Deeanna Fleener, vice president, solution management at Deloitte, and picked up by outlets such as Above the Law, ABA Journal, and Legal IT Insider.

“In a group of 29 women, 20 had personal stories of inappropriate behavior at a conference. That is unacceptable and we have to do better,” Fleener wrote in her post, where she also shared some specifics of the accusations but did not include details on where or when the events occurred.

The organizer has come out with a statement condemning the reported instances of sexual harassment:

"ALM has been made aware of reports of occurrences of highly inappropriate behavior, including harassment and assault, occurring at unaffiliated venues in New York City during the week of its Legalweek event. We first want to vehemently condemn all such actions and reiterate our strong position that any such behavior has zero place in any setting.

While these acts did not occur on site at Legalweek or at any conference-sponsored events, ALM prides itself on the community connections it creates and is committed to working with other key stakeholders to prevent harassment of any industry member. Our longstanding events policy provides that ALM is dedicated to providing a respectful conference experience for everyone and harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.

We will continue to work internally and with external stakeholders in the community to determine how we can best champion meaningful, positive change for the legal community and address the larger problem in the industry.”

Unfortunately, the allegations of harassment around the Legalweek event are not uncommon. In a 2018 MeetingsNet survey, 56 percent of female meeting executives said they’ve been sexually harassed in a professional environment—and 29 percent said that the professional environment was a conference.

In the MeetingsNet articles below, experts suggest tactics to communicate and enforce a conference code of conduct. Critically, the code must provide clear guidance on what attendees should do if they feel they have been harassed, which may mean providing phone numbers that victims can call or text. Further, all events should have clear procedures for staff members to follow in the event an allegation is reported.

3 Must-Have Components in a Conference Code of Conduct
Sexual Harassment Management Strategies
16 Tactics to Stop Sexual Harassment at Meetings



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