After two recently publicized incidents involving allegations of sexual harassment inside Maine organizations, Betsy Peters began to wonder how many more #MeToo moments were on the horizon in Maine, and whether there was anything she could do to help those affected.

Her solution was to bring together a diverse group of business, nonprofit and legal minds to create an online resource for employers, managers, investors, board members and workers who have suffered or witnessed workplace sexual harassment.

Betsy Peters

The product of that effort is, a website filled with tips, tools and links to help prevent on-the-job sexual harassment and deal with it properly when it happens. The website was launched Thursday.

“The goal is to help Maine workplaces move beyond #MeToo,” said Peters, a Portland-based business consultant who has created and worked for a variety of startup companies over the years.

Peters said the need for such a resource is especially great in Maine, where the number of sexual harassment reports to the state Human Rights Commission has more than doubled in recent years.

Maine’s economic landscape is made up primarily of microbusinesses and small nonprofits that often can’t afford a full-time human resources manager or extensive sexual harassment prevention training, she said. But in today’s environment, a lack of resources is no longer an acceptable excuse for tolerating workplace hostility, Peters said.


“With #MeToo, now we’re in a new world in terms of what society will put up with,” she said.

John Burns, managing director of the state-sponsored Maine Venture Fund, said the website is significant and that his organization supports it.

“We as investors in Maine-based companies certainly do the best we can to make sure the companies in which we invest are fair and open companies that treat all of their employees equally,” he said.

Workplace sexual harassment is not only damaging to its victims, but also potentially costly for businesses and the state’s economy. A recent example is the case of Venture Hall, a Portland-based business accelerator that shut down in January when one of its founders, Jess Knox, admitted to “inappropriate behavior” toward two female colleagues after one of the women spoke out publicly.

The demise of Venture Hall led to Maine losing a $475,000 grant that was supposed to help promote the interests of startup companies in the state.

Another recent case involved allegations of harassment against Kevin Thomas, the owner and former publisher of Maine Media Collective, which produces Maine Magazine, Maine Home + Design and other periodicals.


A former employee of the company accused Thomas of making unwanted sexual advances in 2010, including forced kissing, and exhibiting hostility toward her after those advances were rebuffed. Thomas later issued an apology, and the company lost sponsors and canceled events as a result of the incident.

Peters said she consulted with a variety of organizations and people, including labor attorneys, while developing the website. She said its purpose is not to furnish legal advice, but to offer general guidance, education and a list of helpful resources.

“A lot of it is about sexual harassment policy and practices,” she said.

There are three target audiences for employees, employers and investors/board members. The website features a dedicated section for each audience.

The employee section contains pages with titles such as “Get Support Now,” “Know Your Rights,” “Your Options,” “What is Sexual Harassment?” and “Telling Your Story.”

The employer section features pages such as “Tools for Small Businesses,” “The Law,” “Effective Policy” and “Leadership and the Role of Culture.”


The investor and board member section includes “Tools for Board Members and Funders,” “The Role of Good Governance” and “Conduct a Basic Audit.”

The site also asks visitors to sign a pledge to take steps to prevent sexual harassment at work, such as reviewing workplace harassment policies, putting mechanisms in place to track and respond to complaints, and making sure grievances are taken seriously and investigated fully. So far, leaders of over 80 Maine companies and nonprofit organizations have signed the pledge.

Kerem Durdag, chief operating officer at GWI in Biddeford, is one of those who have signed the pledge. He said the internet service provider is a staunch supporter of the site and has been involved from the beginning in the effort to create it.

“It is an undeniable fact that gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace are absolute human rights,” Durdag said. “We at GWI are members of the community of the citizens of Maine and believe to our core that these challenges need to be conversed, addressed and resolved. For us, this is a matter of human necessity, and we work hard every day to make sure this is a priority for us in our way of being as a company, and that our policies and governance keep up with the times.”

Peters said the site is designed to help both men and women facing unwanted advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that threatens their job security, working conditions or advancement opportunities.

“Sexual harassment certainly happens more frequently to women, but it also happens to men,” she said.

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