Seattle University
Human Resources Policy Manual

Appendix C: Sexual Harassment

1. Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, whether between people of different sexes or the same sex includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other behavior of a sexual nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or participation in an educational program;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for personnel decisions or for academic evaluation or advancement; and/or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment

2. Examples of Conduct that May Constitute Sexual Harassment

Conduct and behaviors prohibited by the University's Sexual Harassment Policy include, but are not limited to:

  1. Physical assault;
  2. Direct or implied suggestions that submission to or rejection of sexual advances is a condition of or affect decisions regarding such matters as an individual's employment, promotion, work assignments or status, salary, academic standing, grades, receipt of financial aid, or letters of recommendation;
  3. Direct propositions of a sexual nature and/or subtle pressure for sexual activity that are unwanted and that unreasonably interfere with a person's work or academic environment;
  4. A pattern of conduct (not legitimately related to the subject matter of a course) that causes discomfort or embarrassment, including:
    1. Verbal or written comments of a sexual nature;
    2. Sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes;
    3. Touching, patting, hugging, brushing against a person's body, or repeated or unwanted staring;
    4. Remarks about sexual activity, experience, or orientation;
    5. Remarks of a sexual nature about an individual's body, clothing, or physical appearance; and/or
    6. Display of inappropriate sexually oriented materials in a location where others can see it: when such conduct, comments, actions, or materials unreasonably interfere with a person's work or academic environment;
     
  5. Intentionally making performance of the employee's job or student's academic work more difficult because of that employee's sex or sexual orientation; and/or
  6. Preferential treatment or promises of preferential treatment for submitting to sexual conduct.

Special note: Physical assaults of a sexual nature, or attempts to commit these acts, are forms of unlawful harassment and are criminal acts under the Washington law. Incidents of this nature should be reported to Campus Public Safety and/or the police.

3. Retaliation

Individuals who report a complaint of alleged sexual harassment may not be reprimanded or discriminated against in any way for initiating an inquiry or complaint in good faith. Further, the laws pertaining to sexual harassment make it unlawful to retaliate or to take reprisal in any way against anyone who has articulated a concern about sexual harassment or has participated or cooperated in the investigation of a complaint.

4. Consensual Relationships

  1. Relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances have inherent dangers when they occur between any employee and his supervisor. These relationships are unethical and unprofessional and are therefore prohibited by the University.
  2. A supervisor can have a decisive influence on a staff member's career at the University through wage increases, promotion, and the like. Although sexual harassment most often occurs in situations of power differential between the persons involved, the University recognizes that sexual harassment may occur between persons of the same University status.
  3. No person involved in a consensual relationship shall have direct responsibility for evaluating the employment or for making decisions regarding the promotion or compensation of the other party to the relationship. If an allegation of sexual harassment occurs, the University is less sympathetic to a defense based on consent when the facts establish that a professional power differential existed within the relationship. These relationships are subject to concerns about the validity of consent, conflicts of interest, and unfair treatment of other employees. These relationships undermine the atmosphere of trust essential to the employment relationship.
  4. A romantic or amorous relationship between a member of the faculty and a student for whom the faculty member has instructional, advising, or other professional responsibility is unethical and unprofessional and, therefore, is prohibited. This judgment arises from the recognition that in the faculty-student relationship there is always an element of superiority or power. Faculty members have a professional responsibility not to abuse the power with which they are entrusted because of their faculty position. A romantic or amorous relationship between a faculty member and a student readily creates the impression of favoritism or preferential treatment and thus may adversely affect other students. Such conduct by a faculty member is not simply a personal matter; it is also a matter of institutional concern and responsibility. The oversight of this policy rests with the deans and the Provost.
  5. A romantic or amorous relationship between a staff member and a student for whom the staff member has instructional, advising, or other professional responsibility is unethical and unprofessional and, therefore, is prohibited. This judgment arises from the recognition that in the staff-student relationship there is always an element of superiority or power. Staff members have a professional responsibility not to abuse the power with which they are entrusted because of their staff position. A romantic or amorous relationship between a staff member and a student readily creates the impression of favoritism or preferential treatment and thus may adversely affect other students. Such conduct by a staff member is not simply a personal matter; it is also a matter of institutional concern and responsibility. The oversight of this policy rests with the area Vice President and the Provost.

5. Responsibilities

  1. University administrators, deans, department heads, and supervisors have the responsibility of preventing and eliminating sexual harassment within the areas they oversee.
  2. If administrators, deans, department heads, or supervisors know sexual harassment is occurring, receive a complaint of sexual harassment, or obtain other information indicating possible sexual harassment, they should take prompt action to ensure the matter is addressed, even if the problem or alleged problems is not within their area of oversight. Faculty members likewise, should inform an appropriate administrator if they have reason to believe sexual harassment is occurring.

6. University Resources for Students and Employees

All employees of the University have a number of resources available to discuss sexual harassment concerns or questions. Available resources include, but are not limited to:

  1. Vice President for HR & University Services/Equal Opportunity Officer ("VP for HR/EOO")
  2. Student Counseling Center
  3. Office of the Vice President for Student Development
  4. Wismer Women's Center
  5. Campus Ministry Office

These resources afford an employee the opportunity to discuss a concern or situation and the available options. These resources also offer employees the opportunity to gain information about the University's formal sexual harassment complaint procedures.

7. Education and Training

Educational efforts are essential to sustain a University environment that is as free as possible of sexual harassment, that fosters respect for all individuals, and that observes high standards of conduct in consensual relationships. The primary goals to be achieved through education include:

  1. Ensuring that all individuals are aware of their rights;
  2. Notifying individuals of prohibited behaviors;
  3. Informing parties of the proper way to address complaints of violations of this policy; and
  4. Maintaining a community awareness of the problems this policy addresses.

The VP for HR/EOO arranges regular training sessions for employees about prevention of sexual harassment. The intent of this training is to maintain an academic and work environment free of harassment. An environment that is free from sexual harassment provides for the opportunity for each to reach her potential in the performance of her educational pursuits or assigned position. A sexual harassment pamphlet is published and distributed to the University community on a regular basis. A copy is provided to every employee on hire and available in appropriate campus centers and offices. A copy of the University's sexual harassment policy is placed in the Faculty Handbook as a reference for faculty members. A copy of this policy is readily available in campus centers and offices and is also posted at the University's internal and external web sites.

A letter is issued annually from the Office of the VP for HR/EOO to the campus community, reminding employees and students of the contents of the University's sexual harassment policy.

8. Filing a Complaint of Sexual Harassment

  1. Direct reporting of alleged harassment by offended party: Any employee or student may make a formal report of alleged sexual harassment to the VP for HR/EOO. If the complaint involves the Office of the VP for HR/EOO, the complainant believes that the VP for HR/EOO may have a conflict in the matter, or if for any reason the individual is uncomfortable coming to the VP for HR/EOO, the reporting can be directed to the Executive Vice President. The respective Vice President and dean are notified of the receipt of a complaint.
  2. Reporting by administrators, deans, department heads and supervisors: An individual in a leadership position with personal knowledge that sexual harassment is occurring, or who receives a complaint of sexual harassment or obtains other information indicating possible sexual harassment, should take prompt action to document the matter and report it to the VP for HR/EOO.
  3. Reporting by faculty members: Any faculty member with personal knowledge that sexual harassment is occurring, or who receives a complaint of alleged sexual harassment or obtains other information indicating possible sexual harassment, should document that information and provide it to his respective department chair or dean, or report the matter directly to the VP for HR/EOO.

In many instances, informal discussion can be useful in resolving perceived instances of harassment or unprofessional conduct. Problems are sometimes easier to resolve when an informal atmosphere encourages people to identify the difficulty, talk it out, and agree on how to deal with it. Even where a formal complaint may have been submitted, the VP for HR/EOO can often assist an individual in bringing about an informal satisfactory resolution without a formal investigation. The University retains the right to investigate or address concerns even without a formal complaint or to initiate an investigation of its own volition.

9. Investigation Procedures

  1. The nature and the scope of the formal investigation depends in part on the nature of the complaint.
  2. The VP for HR/EOO documents all of the details as reported by the complainant.
  3. In investigating a formal complaint of alleged sexual harassment, every possible effort shall be made to ensure the confidentiality of both the complainant and the alleged offending party.
  4. The VP for HR/EOO conducts an investigation and gathers necessary information to establish whether there is a reasonable basis for believing that the alleged violation of this policy has occurred.
  5. This investigation includes an interview with the alleged offending party, wherein he is informed of the nature of the complaint, the identity of the complainant, and the reported information surrounding the allegation. The investigation affords the alleged harasser the full opportunity to respond to the allegations.
  6. In conducting the investigation, the VP for HR/EOO may interview and/or obtain written statements from other persons believed to have pertinent factual knowledge.

10. Complaint Resolution and Corrective Action

  1. Every complaint of sexual harassment is considered on its own merits. Based on the merits of the complaint and the findings, the University takes whatever corrective/disciplinary action it considers appropriate.
  2. Where sexual harassment is found, steps are taken to assure the harassment stops immediately. The VP for HR/EOO monitors corrective action to assure compliance.
  3. Possible outcomes of the investigation are: (a) an informal resolution of the complaint, (b) a determination that the allegations are not warranted or cannot be substantiated; (c) a negotiated resolution of the complaint; or (d) institution of formal corrective action or discipline, as described in item "e." below.
  4. Findings of sexual harassment: If the VP for HR/EOO concludes that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the alleged violation of this policy has occurred appropriate corrective action is recommended. Such action may include, but is not limited to, any of the following: reprimand, suspension, transfer, dismissal, or termination. The University may require an individual to be counseled in appropriate behaviors and the University reserves the right to require training in appropriate behaviors.
  5. Except as specifically modified by other provisions of this policy, formal disciplinary and corrective action involving allegations of:
    1. Violations of this policy by faculty members are the responsibility of the Provost and are governed by the University's Faculty Handbook.
    2. Violations of this policy by staff members are the responsibility of the appropriate Vice President and are governed by University policies and procedure for discipline and dismissal of staff.
     

11. Appeal of Determination of the Complaint

If either party is not satisfied with the resolution or determination of the complaint, that party may file a written appeal with the VP for HR/EOO or the Executive Vice president. The appeal must be filed within ten (10) working days of the determination. The VP for HR/EOO or the Executive Vice president makes a decision on the appeal of the determination within thirty (30) days of receipt, and notifies the parties in writing of that final determination.

12. Appeal of Corrective Action or Discipline

An appeal to corrective action or discipline on the basis of sexual harassment is handled according to the applicable procedures outlined above. In addition to internal disciplinary procedures, certain matters may be referred for legal action (either civil or criminal) by either the complainant or the University.

13. Protection of All Involved Individuals

  1. To the extent that it is practical, the complainant and the alleged offender are informed of steps taken during the investigation.
  2. All reasonable action is taken to assure that the complainant, the alleged offender and those participating in the complaint or investigative process suffer no retaliation as a result of their involvement in the process.
  3. At the time an investigation begins, whether as part of an informal procedure or a formal procedure, the accused is informed of the allegations, the identity of the complainant, and the facts surrounding the allegations. In an informal procedure, however, the identity of the complainant may be kept confidential if, in the judgment of the VP for HR/EOO, doing so is in the best interest of the complainant and does not hamper the ability of the accused to respond to the allegations.

14. Sanctions for a False Complaint

A complainant who is intentionally dishonest in making an allegation of sexual harassment, or who makes a complaint maliciously, is subject to University disciplinary procedures, according to applicable disciplinary guidelines (Faculty Handbook, University policies, or student policies.) Reasonable steps may also be taken to restore the reputation of the accused if it was damaged.

15. Sexual Harassment Complaints Filed with External Agencies

The University's intention is that through these procedures any complaints are resolved internally except where criminal activity is involved. An aggrieved individual may also file a complaint with federal and state agencies, such as:

Washington State Human Rights Commission
Melbourne Tower, #291
1511 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 464-6500
 

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
915 Second Avenue, Room 3310
Seattle, WA 98174
(206) 220-7900
 

U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Federal Contract
Compliance Programs
71 Stevenson St., Suite 1700
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 848-69698
 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Federal Office Bldg.
909 First Avenue, #400
Seattle, WA 98104-1061
(206) 220-6883
 

Individuals who witness or are the victim of a sexual assault or related criminal activity should report the matter to Campus Public Safety or the Seattle Police Department.

Resources

Sexual Harassment: http://www.newmedialearning.com/psh/seattleu/ 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, April 20, 2011