Sunlight Foundation’s Personnel Policies and Practices


On May 4, 2018, the Huffington Post published an article detailing allegations including a sexual assault by former Sunlight Labs Director Clay Johnson before his tenure at Sunlight (2008-2010), and inappropriate behavior by him at Sunlight prior to his departure, and afterwards elsewhere.

To state the necessary and obvious, we regret Clay’s hiring by Sunlight, and that Sunlight’s management failed to address appropriately Clay’s reported despicable behavior when he was with Sunlight, and failed to create a culture in our workplace that precluded inappropriate conduct by others besides Clay.

The Sunlight Foundation, like all employers, has a responsibility to create environments that protect staff, set an inclusive, respectful, collaborative tone, and prevent and respond to harassment or other misconduct effectively. The Sunlight Foundation is unequivocally committed to preventing harassment and abuse in the workplace. We are committed to a staff culture that prioritizes inclusion and respect, and to having policies and procedures in place that allow us to respond appropriately whenever those values are not adhered to. As an organization we advocate for the inclusive and collaborative ideal at the core of democracy. We clearly need to ensure that our practices and policies reflect those goals and values.

Fostering an inclusive workplace requires culture change. With that in mind, reflecting on the issues raised by the Huffington Post and subject to further action that may be determined after an appropriate Board-overseen review of Sunlight’s history, we are committed to at least the following actions:

  • We are formalizing an inclusivity training approach that will address gender-based harassment as well as other biases, help us collectively foster a team culture where we can recognize misconduct as it happens, address it appropriately and compassionately, and promote an inclusive, collaborative environment that values and protects all of our staff.
  • We will be supporting our team leaders to help them build inclusive leadership skills. We recognize that every manager at Sunlight has a responsibility to help staff feel safe reporting concerns around harassment or bias, understand their responsibilities and the resources available to them, and be assured the proper protocols for dealing with incident reports or other issues as they arise.
  • We will be clarifying the resources available to staff, including our employee handbook, the harassment reporting procedure and policy, and related medical benefits including mental health benefits.
  • Finally, to encourage dialogue this month and beyond, we will be having general discussion sessions with our staff, both as a group and one-on-one, to discuss other ways Sunlight can improve in this regard.

While values like these should go without saying, it’s clear that being explicit about our values, goals, and processes will help us ensure that we hold each other, and ourselves, accountable.