Humane Society Begins Reconciliation Process

Eight months after its president and chief executive officer resigned, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) continues efforts to improve.

HSUS announced on Monday a reconciliation process, inviting any employees who might have experienced any type of harassment or inappropriate workplace behavior or retaliation to share their experiences in confident interviews.

The reconciliation process is being led by Katherine Kimpel of KK Advising PLLC, a “noted employee advocate,” and was established with input from employment law attorney Kelly Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.

Former President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, accused by three female employees of sexual harassment dating back to incidents in 2005 and as recently as 2012, resigned in February. He stepped down a day after the HSUS board voted not to fire him after finding “no credible evidence” against him following a month-long investigation. Another executive, Peter Shapiro, was demoted following an investigation in 2016 of sexual harassment complaints and left the organization earlier this year.

Board member Erika Brunson resigned in protest of the alleged harassment and Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society International, was appointed acting president and CEO.

HSUS is one of the largest animal advocacy organizations in the country, with offices in Washington, D.C., and Gaithersburg, Md. The organization reported combined annual revenue of almost $180 million in 2017. There were 564 individuals employed by HSUS during calendar year 2016, according to the most recent tax form available.

HSUS did not have an estimate of how much the process would cost but a spokeswoman said it ‘s a “necessary investment” in the organization’s policies, procedures and culture. “We believe any immediate cost will be recouped in the future by creating a safe, secure, healthy, inclusive and productive work place,” Anna West, senior director of public relations, said via email.

The reconciliation process was designed in conjunction with Kimpel and Dermody to understand “the breadth and depth of any mistakes made in the past and how the HSUS can strengthen its policies and procedures so that it can set the standard moving forward,” according to a statement by the organization.

As a part of the process, Kimpel is conducting confidential interviews with any employees who might have experienced or witnessed sexual or other types of harassment, inappropriate workplace behaviors, a hostile work environment and/or retaliation at the HSUS and wants to share the experiences in a safe setting.

Any individual who works or worked with the HSUS and would like to participate in the reconciliation process can send an email message to HSUSreconciliation@gmail.com no later than Nov. 9.

Kimpel also will review and update policies and investigative procedures at HSUS surrounding inappropriate workplace behaviors, social media usage and office relationships. She will train employees on the new policies and work with the organization on investigation protocols and internal recordkeeping in accordance with best practices, according to the announcement.

The HSUS board has completed a board governance review and commissioned a pay equity study to improve the organization’s workplace culture.

“In the wake of consecutive revelations about the misconduct of two senior male executives, the HSUS board and senior leadership realized we needed to take a long hard look across our organization to understand any weaknesses in our practices and procedures or shortcomings in our culture that allowed this misconduct to occur,” HSUS officials said via a statement. “We are fully committed to nurturing a safe, supportive and inclusive culture at the HSUS and to using this experience as a catalyst for progress.”