Sexual Harassment and Workplace Policies

Core Values

At Spark, we value all of our constituencies – employees, entrepreneurs, and investors. We respect and support the entrepreneurs we back, and we are committed to interacting with all entrepreneurs professionally and to empowering entrepreneurs from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women and people of color. Although we offer our portfolio companies very direct advice and will push hard for our point of view, we won’t tell them how to run their business and we won’t talk down to them.

Our approach is unlike that of most other venture capital firms: We provide hands-on guidance to help client companies grow during the early, most critical stages of development. We offer a venture support system of experienced professionals who understand the unique challenges of start-ups.

We have little interest in “quick flip” projects or financial engineering exercises. We’re excited to have a chance to work with great management teams and generate exceptional capital gains that enable our Limited Partners to do great work.

We essentially have two clients, portfolio companies and limited partners. The portfolio companies are primarily start-up firms that require funds and guidance to fuel growth. The Limited Partners are investors who supply funds to up portfolio company growth. We need a diverse set of ideas, backgrounds, and approaches from everyone to continue our success.

 

Equal Employment Opportunity

Spark is an Equal Opportunity Employer. It is Spark’s policy to administer all actions and policies without regard to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, ancestry, age (forty and above), mental or physical disability, genetic information, veteran status, any military service or application for military service, participation in discrimination complaint-related activities or membership in any other category protected under local, state or federal law. All employment decisions and personnel actions, including without limitation, hiring, promotion, compensation, benefits, and termination, are and will continue to be administered in accordance with, and to further the principal of, Equal Employment Opportunity. Performance of supervisors and employees alike will be evaluated on the basis of work-related criteria.

Harassment

Spark is committed to promoting a workplace that is free of harassment whether on the count of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, ancestry, age (forty and above), mental or physical disability, genetic information, veteran status, any military service or application for military service, participation in discrimination complaint-related activities or membership in any other category protected by local, state or federal law. Harassment and discrimination are unlawful and will not be tolerated by Spark.

Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment

All employees have the right to be free from sexual or discriminatory harassment. Sexual or discriminatory harassment, whether by management, supervisory personnel, non-supervisory personnel or third parties is unlawful and will not be permitted. Because Spark takes allegations of sexual or discriminatory harassment seriously, Spark will respond promptly to complaints of sexual or discriminatory harassment, as well as to management otherwise learning that possible sexual or discriminatory harassment is occurring. Where it is demonstrated to its satisfaction that such harassment occurred, Spark will act promptly to eliminate the harassment and impose such corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action up to and including termination where appropriate.

Please note that while this policy sets forth Spark’s goals of promoting a workplace that is free of sexual or discriminatory harassment, the policy is not designed nor intended to limit Spark’s authority to discipline or to take remedial action for workplace conduct we deem unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of sexual or discriminatory harassment.

Discriminatory harassment is harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, ancestry, age (forty and above), mental or physical disability, genetic information, veteran status, any military service or application for military service, participation in discrimination complaint-related activities or membership in any other category protected under local, state or federal law.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature where: (a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; or (b) such advances, requests, or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive work environment.

These definitions include any direct or implied requests by a supervisor for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job benefits, such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits or continued employment, as well as any sexually-oriented conduct that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a workplace environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating to male or female workers.

Examples of conduct that, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances, including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness, include the following:

  • either explicitly or implicitly conditioning any term of employment (e.g., continued employment, wages, evaluation, advancement, assigned duties, or shifts) on the provision of sexual favors;
  • touching a sexual part of an employee’s body;
  • touching any part of an employee’s body after that person has indicated, or it is known,
  • that such physical contact was unwelcome;
  • continuing to ask an employee to socialize on or off-duty when that person has indicated
  • she or he is not interested;
  • displaying or transmitting sexually suggestive pictures, objects, cartoons, or posters if it
  • is known or should be known that the behavior is unwelcome;
  • regularly using sexually vulgar or explicit language in the presence of a person if it is
  • known or should be known that the person does not welcome such behavior;
  • derogatory or provoking remarks about or relating to an employee’s gender, sexual
  • activity, or sexual orientation;
  • coerced sexual acts.

It is unlawful for males to sexually or discriminatorily harass females or other males, and for females to sexually or discriminatorily harass males or other females. Sexual or discriminatory harassment on the job is unlawful whether it involves co-worker harassment, harassment by a manager, or harassment by persons doing business with or for Spark. Sexual or discriminatory harassment may subject Spark to liability.

Complaint Procedure

The responsibility to investigate complaints of harassment has been assigned to: (1) Paul Conway, CFO (paul@sparkcapital.com; 617-830-2002); (2) Alexa Lyons, Controller (alexa@sparkcapital.com; 617-830-2014). Any employee who believes that he or she has been the subject of harassment or knows of possible harassment should report the alleged act to Paul or Alexa as soon as possible. If the employee would prefer to report the alleged act to his or her direct supervisor, or to any other manager, the employee should feel free to do so. These individuals are available to discuss any concerns employees may have and to provide information about Spark’s policy on sexual harassment and the complaint process. All supervisory and management staff are required to report any complaint that they receive, or any harassment that they observe, to Paul or Alexa. Employees should not allow an inappropriate situation to continue by not reporting it, regardless of who is creating or experiencing the situation.

An investigation will be undertaken promptly if management receives a complaint or otherwise learns of possible sexual harassment occurring. The investigation may include a private interview with the employee making the complaint, with witnesses, and with the person accused of sexual harassment. The investigation will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances. When Spark has completed its investigation, it will, to the extent appropriate, inform the person filing the complaint and the person alleged to have committed the conduct of the results of the investigation. If the investigation reveals that sexual harassment did occur, Spark will act promptly to eliminate the offending conduct, and where it is appropriate, impose disciplinary action. Sanctions may include counseling, verbal or written warnings, suspension, and/or discharge.

It is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint of sexual harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of a complaint for sexual harassment. Any individual who has been found to engage in such retaliation against another employee may be subject to appropriate sanctions, including counseling, verbal or written warnings, suspension, and/or discharge. If any employee believes that she or he has been subjected to retaliation for having brought or supported a complaint of harassment, that employee is encouraged to report the situation as soon as possible to his or her direct supervisor or the CFO.

The state agencies responsible for complaints of sexual harassment are:

  • Massachusetts: the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”). The MCAD can be reached in Boston at One Ashburton Place, Room 601, Boston, MA 02108-1518, telephone number (617) 994-6000.
  • New York: New York Division of Human Rights. The NY Division of Human Rights can be reached at Office of Sexual Harassment Issues, NYS Division of Human Rights, 55 Hanson Place, Room 900, Brooklyn, NY 11217, telephone number (718) 722-2060.
  • California: CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). The DFEH can be reached at 2218 Kausen Drive, Suite 100, Elk Grove, CA 95758, telephone number (800) 884-1684.

 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is the federal agency that investigates sexual harassment claims. The EEOC can be reached at:

  • Massachusetts: John F. Kennedy Federal Building, 475 Government Center, 4th Floor, Room 475, Boston, MA 02203, telephone number (617) 565-3200.
  • New York: 33 Whitehall Street, 5th floor, New York, NY, 10004, telephone number (800) 669-4000.
  • California: 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 5 West, P.O. Box 36025, San Francisco, CA 94102-3661, telephone number (800) 669-4000.

 

Both the MCAD and the EEOC require that a claim must be filed within 300 days of the incident complained of. DFEH and the NY Division of Human Rights require that a claim must be filed within one year of the incident complained of.

We trust that all managers, supervisory personnel and employees will continue to act responsibly to establish a pleasant working environment free of sexual harassment and discrimination of any type.

Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Other Third Parties

Spark values its relationships with entrepreneurs, investors, and other third parties. All persons with whom Spark does business must be treated professionally, and with dignity and respect. Entrepreneurs should be supported and provided opportunities, as appropriate, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, ancestry, age (forty and above), physical or mental disability, veteran status, military service or application for military service, participation in discrimination complaint-related activities or any other categories protected by local, state or federal law. No persons with whom Spark does business should ever be given reason to conclude that their gender or membership in a protected category has had any impact whatsoever on their business dealings with Spark.

Spark personnel are also strictly prohibited from engaging in any discriminatory or sexual harassment toward entrepreneurs or any other persons with whom Spark does business. The definitions and examples set forth in the policy on discriminatory and sexual harassment set forth above apply equally to such persons. If conduct would not be permissible with respect to a fellow employee, it is likewise impermissible with respect to entrepreneurs and other third parties.

Each Spark employee has an important role to play in ensuring that entrepreneurs and other persons with whom Spark does business are protected from discrimination and from sexual and discriminatory harassment. Whether the conduct is by management, supervisory personnel, non- supervisory personnel or a third party, if any Spark employee observes or otherwise knows of possible discrimination or harassment in violation of this policy, the employee is required report the matter to Paul Conway or Alexa Lyons immediately.

It is of paramount importance that Spark promote an environment where persons feel they can voice concerns about discrimination and harassment, without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Spark employees are strictly prohibited from engaging in any retaliation against other employees, entrepreneurs, or other persons with whom we do business for reporting concerns about discrimination or harassment, or participating in any investigation of such conduct. Any persons found to have engaged in retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, which may include termination.

Non-Fraternization

Romantic, sexual, familial, and other intimate relationships between either (a) supervisory or management personnel and employees within their chain-of-command, or (b) a Spark employee and an entrepreneur, can raise issues of equity, fairness, and favoritism, generally. Even the appearance of favoritism must be avoided. Accordingly, such relationships are not permitted. If Spark becomes aware of a romantic, sexual, familial, or other intimate relationship involving supervisory or management personnel and an employee within their chain-of-command, one of the involved employees may be transferred (i.e., outside the chain-of-command) and/or other disciplinary or corrective action may be imposed. If Spark becomes aware of a romantic, sexual, familial, or other intimate relationship involving a Spark employee and an entrepreneur, it should be reported to Paul Conway or Alexa Lyons.

Such relationships between employees who are not within the same chain-of-command are not addressed by this policy. However, if, in Spark’s opinion, the appearance of impropriety, a conflict, disruption, or other problem may arise as a result of such relationship, Spark reserves the right to address the matter as it deems appropriate.

Spark reserves the right to modify this policy as business situations may require.

Drugs/Alcohol

Illegal drugs are not allowed on the premises of Spark at any time nor are employees permitted to work under the influence of illegal drugs. Use of alcohol is generally prohibited except for the following: (1) responsible consumption at events sponsored by or approved by Spark; (2) responsible consumption by a Spark employee who is meeting with another Spark employee, entrepreneur, investor, or other third party if such consumption does not adversely impact the Spark employee’s professionalism and the Spark employee’s conduct remains consistent with the above-mentioned policies, including, but not limited to, policies on harassment and sexual and discriminatory harassment.

Computer Use and Communications

Spark’s policies regarding appropriate treatment of Spark employees, entrepreneurs, investors, and other third parties – including, but not limited to, its harassment and sexual and discriminatory harassment policies – extend to all communications, including electronic mail, text messages, social media communications, telephonic communications, and voicemail.

The computer, electronic mail, internet access, voice mail, text messaging and other electronic data exchange and messaging systems provided for your use by Spark are intended for business purposes. Under absolutely no circumstances is any company property to be utilized to solicit, harass, or for any unlawful purpose, such as accessing illegally-distributed materials which are sexually explicit or otherwise unlawful.

Spark reserves the right to monitor or review any information stored or transmitted on any company-provided equipment, including but not limited to computers, laptops, PDA’s, BlackBerry’s, cell phones, smart phones, data- or voice-centric devices, multimedia and/or Internet enabled devices. These systems should not be considered completely secure, so please use discretion when sending and storing highly sensitive or confidential information.