Seeking Out Wrongdoing: Best Means For NPOs To Avoid Liability

Written exclusively for My Community Workplace for Not-For-Profits Organizations

Three women's soccer players at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, have filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the team's former athletic trainer subjected them and others to sexual assault and other sexual misconduct over several years.

According to the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the athletic trainer used the team's training room, offices, and buses, as well as his private hotel rooms, to groom and sexually assault players.

The plaintiffs allege the trainer would give players full-body massages in a private room that lasted for hours, rather than 10-minute athletic massages on specific areas.

The trainer allegedly told female players that he had "files" that he would use against them if they ever reported him. 

The plaintiffs claim the misconduct occurred while the trainer was under the direct supervision of Butler's senior associate athletic director for student-athlete health, performance, and well-being. They allege the associate athletic director "never inquired, investigated, raised questions about the safety of the female athletes or followed safety protocols."

Butler issued a statement that student-athletes on the women's soccer team reported misconduct committed by the trainer in September 2021, and the university "promptly notified law enforcement," removed the trainer from campus, and suspended his job duties.

After a thorough investigation that concluded the trainer had violated university policies, the university terminated him in the summer of 2022, according to the statement. "3 Butler University soccer players file federal lawsuit alleging abuse by former trainer" (Jul. 27, 2023).


Commentary and Checklist


In the above matter, the university, once provided notice, reported the trainer. Whether liability will be linked to the university will depend on if the university knew or should have known of the abuse earlier.

Everyone in the nonprofit community should be trained to identify the signs of abuse, as well as on the available methods for victims of abuse to use to report.

What are other steps that can help reduce the risk of wrongdoing in a nonprofit organization?

·      Have behavioral policies and procedures.

·      Train everyone in the workplace on the policies and procedures.

·      The board of directors should routinely review leaders' job performance to make sure they are carrying out their duties.

·      Have multiple reporting methods, including anonymous methods and reporting to a third-party.

·      Investigate every report of wrongdoing and take steps to prevent reoccurrence and retaliation.



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