Sexual Harassment Policy Revision

Policy Memorandum No. 147

Recommended by the Commission on Faculty Affairs
Approved by CFA: May 13, 1994
Approved by University Council: October 3, 1994
Approved by the President: October 3, 1994
Effective: Immediately

The University Council, on recommendation of the Commission on Faculty Affairs, approved a revision of the university's Sexual Harassment Policy. This revision, which brings the university into compliance with current federal law, also addresses the ethical considerations presented by consensual relationships between faculty members and students in their classes or supervisors and employees.

The EO/AA Office is preparing a manual and will soon offer training for administrators and supervisors who have special responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment. Replacement pages for the Faculty Handbook will be distributed later. However, you are urged to keep the attached document, since it provides the policy statement in full.

Following is the text of the resolution as adopted by University Council:

WHEREAS, problems of implementation over the last several years and better understanding of requirements of Title VII and evolving case law on sexual harassment make revision of the Policy 1025 an important priority in preventing and resolving complaints of sexual harassment; and,

WHEREAS, the current policy on sexual harassment requires a formal, written complaint in order to initiate an investigation, but federal law requires employers to investigate and resolve complaints as soon as they have knowledge of a problem (or even in cases where the supervisor SHOULD HAVE KNOWN); and,

WHEREAS, current policy states that no records will be kept of informal complaints, which also is not in compliance with federal law; and,

WHEREAS, Policy 1025 in its current form does not make clear the responsibilities of administrators and supervisors in every unit for preventing and resolving problems of sexual harassment; and,

WHEREAS, consensual relationships between faculty members and students they supervise, or supervisor and employee, are fraught with potential conflict of interest and should be considered a violation of University policy, rather than simply discouraged.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Policy 1025 be revised as attached, with the new policy to receive wide distribution throughout the University community and to be the subject of training for administrators and supervisors who have primary responsibility for preventing and resolving problems of sexual harassment at Virginia Tech. And that a section concerning sexual relationships between faculty and students or employees they evaluate be added to the Statement of Professional Ethics and Responsibilities in the Faculty Handbook (Section 2.7) as an appropriate complement to the sexual harassment policy.

PROPOSED ADDITION TO THE STATEMENT OF PROFESSIONAL ETHICS AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE FACULTY HANDBOOK

6. Not engage in any sexual relationships with or make sexual overtures to students or employees whom they are in a position to evaluate by virtue of their teaching, research, or administrative responsibilities (refer to the University policy on Sexual Harassment, policy 1025, for further information).

Policy No. 1025,
Sexual Harassment Policy,
Revision 9,
May 13, 1994

Substantive changes/additions are in bold.

1.0 PURPOSE

Sexual harassment is reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the University. It subverts the mission of the University and threatens the careers, educational experience, and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and relationships involving sexual harassment or discrimination have no place within the University. In both obvious and subtle ways, sexual harassment is destructive to individual students, faculty, staff, and the academic community as a whole. When, through fear of reprisal, a student, staff member, or faculty member submits or is pressured to submit to unwanted sexual attention, the entire University suffers.

Sexual harassment is especially serious when it threatens relationships between teacher and student or supervisor and subordinate. In such situations, sexual harassment exploits unfairly the power inherent in a faculty member's or supervisor's position. Through grades, wage increases, recommendations for graduate study, promotion, and the like, a teacher or supervisor can have a decisive influence on a student's, staff member's, or faculty member's career at the University and beyond.

While sexual harassment most often takes place in situations of a power differential between the persons involved, the University also recognizes that sexual harassment may occur between persons of the same University status. Sexual harassment may also occur between persons of the same sex. The University will not tolerate behavior between or among members of the University community that creates an unacceptable working or educational environment.

2.0 POLICY

2.1 PROHIBITED ACTS

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic status. (For example, an explicit or implicit promise or granting of educational or career advancement expressed by promotion, training, or favorable academic or employment evaluation in return for sexual favors.)

2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions. (For example, an explicit or implicit threat or action which adversely affects the academic or employment opportunities expressed as non-promotion, poor performance appraisal, transfer, or reassignment if the sexual demands or requests are rejected.)

3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment. (For example, a pattern of conduct that causes discomfort or humiliation, or both, such as sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, anecdotes, visual materials, or literature.)

[The prohibited acts of sexual harassment are drawn directly from "Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex" by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1604.11A.]

2.2 CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIPS

It should be understood by all members of the university community that consensual amorous or sexual relationships (hereinafter referred to as consensual relationships) that occur in the context of educational or employment supervision and evaluation present serious ethical concerns. Consensual relationships between faculty and students enrolled in their classes or students for whom they have professional responsibility as advisor or supervisor violate the policy on professional ethics and responsibilities and may be a violation of this sexual harassment policy. Similarly, consensual relationships between supervisors and employees they directly supervise violate university policy. Faculty members or supervisors involved in consensual relationships must remove themselves from any activity or evaluation that may reward or penalize the student or employee.

Consensual relationships between faculty and students are particularly susceptible to exploitation. The respect and trust accorded a professor by a student, as well as the power exercised by the professor in giving praise or blame, grades, recommendations for further study and future employment, make voluntary consent by the student suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship.

Faculty and supervisors should be aware that conducting consensual relationships with students or employees they supervise makes them liable for formal action. Even when both parties have consented to the development of such a relationship, it is the faculty member or supervisor who, by virtue of his or her special responsibility, will be held accountable for unprofessional behavior. Complaints alleging sexual harassment, as defined by the Prohibited Acts above, may be filed by either party of the consensual relationship or by an aggrieved party outside the relationship.

Note that control over the employment of an immediate family member is governed by the Virginia Conflict Of Interests Act.

3.0 Responsibilities Of Administrators And Supervisors

University administrators and supervisors are responsible for creating and maintaining a work environment free of sexual harassment. If administrators or supervisors know that sexual harassment is occurring, receive a complaint of sexual harassment, or obtain information indicating possible sexual harassment, they must take immediate steps to address the matter. If administrators or supervisors learn of a problem outside their area, they must inform someone who is in a position to act on the matter.

Administrators or supervisors have a legal obligation to act whenever they learn--either directly or indirectly--about sexual harassment. This obligation exists even if the victim requests that no action be taken. It is not the responsibility of the individual being harassed to correct the situation.

Administrators and supervisors have the legal responsibility to protect a victim from continued harassment or retaliation. They must also protect persons accused of harassment from potential damage by false allegations. Immediate investigations and timely, remedial action permit this responsibility to be met. Administrators and supervisors will be held accountable for dealing with and taking necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment.

4.0 PROCEDURES

4.1 INFORMAL RESOLUTION

Individuals may take concerns or complaints of sexual harassment to any member of the university community for counsel and a discussion of options available under this policy. Any individual receiving a concern or complaint should inform an appropriate administrator or university officer if they have reason to believe sexual harassment has occurred. Administrators and supervisors have a duty to respond to sexual harassment complaints. They should inform the EO/AA office of the complaint and consult them for guidance. Responses from administrators and supervisors may involve: 1) advising the complainant of available options; 2) counseling the victim to address the situation and confront the accused harasser directly if desired; 3) conducting an informal investigation, including notification to the accused, and taking appropriate action; and/or 4) assisting the complainant in drafting a formal complaint to the EO/AA office.

If at any time a record is made naming an accused individual, that accused individual must be notified in writing as soon as possible. Until a formal complaint has been made, the accused will not be informed of the name of the accuser or the name of the victim unless they have consented.

Any complaint of sexual harassment against an undergraduate or a graduate student who is not acting in a teaching, advising, or supervisory role should be filed with the Dean of Students regardless of the status of the complainant (i.e. student, faculty, or staff). The complaint will be investigated by the Dean of Students or designee in accordance with procedures described in University Policies for Student Life.

4.2 FORMAL RESOLUTION

A complainant wishing to file a complaint of sexual harassment against any member of the faculty, administration, staff, or graduate student performing a teaching, advising, or supervisory role should contact the Office of EO/AA. The Office will attempt to resolve the complaint informally with the accused. If informal procedures are not successful, the EO/AA Office will notify the complainant of the right to pursue a formal complaint.

A formal complaint includes a written charge and consent by the complainant to be identified. A formal complaint of sexual harassment must be made within 180 days of the offense. The Director of EO/AA or a designee will meet with the complainant and will undertake an investigation after a written charge has been prepared. At the time the investigation commences, the accused will be informed of the allegations and the identity of the complainant, and given an opportunity to respond. The EO/AA representative will meet with the appropriate supervisor of the accused early in the investigation to collect further information and to seek assistance in resolving the complaint, if appropriate. All reasonable efforts will be made to reach a resolution in a timely manner.

The investigation is expected to lead to one of the following possible outcomes:

a. The Director of EO/AA finds no facts to support the charge:

The Director of EO/AA will prepare a record of the investigation and findings and will promptly inform the parties of the outcome. The complainant, if not satisfied with the outcome, may appeal to the Senior Vice President and Provost or the Executive Vice President as appropriate.

b. The Director of EO/AA finds facts to support the charge and a negotiated resolution is reached not requiring university sanctions:

The Director of EO/AA makes a report to the Provost or the Executive Vice President as appropriate, stating the facts uncovered in the investigation and the resolution reached.

c. The Director of EO/AA finds facts to support the charge and either no resolution is reached or a recommendation of disciplinary action is made:

If the accused is a classified employee, the director of EO/AA, in consultation with Personnel Services, will make a recommendation to the supervisor who will follow procedures for disciplining classified employees contained in the standards of conduct and state grievance procedures.

An accused member of the General Faculty may request a panel review within two weeks of notification. The Provost or Executive Vice President will appoint a three-member panel and designate one of the members as chair. The panel will review the evidence, meet with relevant parties if needed, and consider disciplinary action, if appropriate. Members of the panel will be selected from among the General Faculty in consultation with the President of the Faculty Senate or the Chair of the Commission on Administrative and Professional Faculty as appropriate. The Director of EO/AA will serve as a non-voting member of the panel.

The panel will report the result of its deliberations and ANY recommended disciplinary action to the Provost or Executive Vice President who will review the findings of the panel and determine disciplinary action if warranted. Disciplinary action would then be implemented by the appropriate administrator or supervisor.

If the accused does not request a panel hearing within two weeks of notification, the Director of EO/AA will make a report to the Provost or Executive Vice President outlining the facts of the case and recommending appropriate discipline or sanctions. The Provost or Executive Vice President will review the findings and determine disciplinary action, if warranted. Disciplinary action would then be implemented by the appropriate administrator or supervisor.

Disciplinary action(s) shall reflect the severity of the conduct, number and frequency of encounters, apparent intent of the harasser, and other relevant factors in the case. Disciplinary actions may include, but are not limited to, oral warnings or written warnings placed in the employee's personnel file, suspension without pay, probation, demotion, transfer, or termination of employment.

In all cases, the parties will be informed promptly of the outcome. To the extent possible, the proceedings will be conducted in a way calculated to protect the confidentiality of all parties. Records of the investigation and outcome will be kept by the EO/AA Office in accordance with applicable laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and of the United States of America.

A complainant found to have been intentionally dishonest in making the allegations or to have made them maliciously is subject to University discipline.

3. Other Avenues for Formal Complaints:

In addition to, or in lieu of, procedures above:

a. Students (either undergraduate or graduate) may file formal complaints with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

b. Faculty may file a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the incident.

c. Staff may:

1) file a grievance within 30 days of the offense as outlined in the Grievance Procedure for State Employees, OR file a complaint with the Equal Employment Services of the Commonwealth Department of Personnel and Training within 180 days of the offense,

2) file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the incident.

Information on any of these procedures may be obtained from the Office of EO/AA.

5.0 DEFINITIONS

1. FACULTY or FACULTY MEMBER means all members of the General Faculty as defined by the Faculty Handbook.

When performing teaching, advising, or supervisory roles, students shall be considered as faculty for the purposes of this policy.

2. SUPERVISOR may be any category of university employee with responsibility for supervision or evaluation of University personnel or volunteers.

5.0 REFERENCES

"Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex" by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1604.11A.

6.0 APPROVALS AND REVISIONS

Revised by the EO/AA Committee, March 29, 1994; approved by Commission on Faculty Affairs, May 13, 1994.


Approved by University Council, October 3, 1994.

PET:bjl


President's Policy Memorandum

URL: http://purl.vt.edu/vtdocs/policies/ppm147