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Sexual Harassment

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Robert Morris University is committed to a work and academic environment that encourages excellence in all aspects of university life. This environment includes freedom from all forms of sexual harassment for all students, faculty, staff, and applicants who seek to join the University in some capacity. This also includes freedom from harassment of or by third parties, individuals not directly affiliated with the University, e.g., contractors, clients, customers, suppliers and visitors.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated. A violation of University policy on sexual harassment will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action such as reprimand, suspension, or termination of employment. The type of disciplinary action imposed depends on the severity of the offense

General Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed towards a student, employee, applicant seeking to join the University, or a third party when:
  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person's status in a course, program, activity, academic decision, employment, or admission;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions;
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or affect of unreasonably interfering with an employee's or third parties' work or student's academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, coercive, or offensive work or educational environment. For the purpose of this policy, unreasonably interfering is defined as improper, unjustifiable behavior going beyond what is appropriate, warranted or natural.

Prohibited Conduct
Prohibited acts of sexual harassment can take a variety of forms ranging from verbal statements of a sexual nature to physical contact of a sexual nature. All forms of sexual harassment are unacceptable behavior in the workplace itself or in other work-related settings such as business trips, athletic events, conferences, and business related social events. Examples of conduct which could be considered sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
  • Direct or implied statements or threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of admission, employment, continued employment, work status, promotion, grades, or recommendation
  • Direct proposition of a sexual nature
  • Subtle pressure or innuendo for sexual activity
  • Comments or innuendos of a sexual nature; sexually explicit jokes, anecdotes, statements, questions, or remarks about sexual activity; derogatory or vulgar comments regarding a person's gender, sexually suggestive language, sexually vulgar language, remarks about a person's physical anatomy or characteristics, suggestive or insulting sounds and obscene gestures (through any communication method including voice mail)
  • Unnecessary or unwelcome physical touching, patting, and hugging
  • Open display or distribution of sexually oriented pictures, posters, E-mail, calendars or other material of a sexual nature that is offensive to others.

Problem Solving Procedures
There are two levels of problem solving procedures for complaints of sexual harassment. The first involves an informal complaint resolution procedure, and the second involves a formal procedure that requires the university to undertake a defined process within a specified time period.

A complainant has the ability, at any time, to proceed to the formal procedure. The informal procedure does not have to be completed or initiated to have a complaint resolved through the formal procedure. Also, the informal resolution team, at any time, can decide to refer a complaint to the formal procedure.

A complainant must complete an election form (Attachment #1) to initially identify the procedure the university is to utilize to address the issue. The form is to include a signed written statement that specifies, at a minimum, the following:
  • Name of the complainant(s)
  • Name of the alleged harasser(s)
  • A specific description of the behavior that includes the number of occurrences, the dates, the location(s), and any other relevant information
  • Names of individuals who observed the behavior (if any)

Informal Resolution Procedure
An individual may bring a complaint of sexual harassment to any of the following resource personnel:
  1. A vice president
  2. A dean, department head, or department director/manager
  3. A human resources manager, a student affairs staff member, coach or an enrollment manager.

The chosen person will:
  • Inform the complainant that the University has a sexual harassment policy
  • Provide the complainant with a copy of the policy
  • Immediately notify the Human Resources Department and
  • Advise the complainant that the Human Resources Department will immediately contact him/her.

In the event the accused or accuser is a student, the Dean of Students or his/her designee will be notified by the Human Resources Department representative.

The informal procedure resolution team will be chaired and convened by the Director of Human Resources or his/her designee. At all times, at least two employees will comprise the team that attempts to informally resolve the complaint. The team will consist of the chair of the committee, the resource person chosen by the student and a member of Student Affairs selected by the Dean of Students or his/her designee, if applicable. It will be the responsibility of the Director of Human Resources or his/her designee to ensure that the team is comprised of the appropriate individuals to resolve the complaint.

If appropriate, the informal resolution team will attempt to resolve the complaint through informal discussions with the two parties. The Director of Human Resources or his/her designee arranges for or facilitates the discussions between the parties and coordinates other informal problem resolution measures.

If a satisfactory resolution of the matter is not reached at the conclusion of the informal resolution procedure, the complainant may pursue a formal complaint.

If the discussions are successful, the resolution will be documented and must be signed by both parties acknowledging the resolution. The Director of Human Resources or his/her designee is to sign the acknowledgment.

A satisfactory resolution to a complaint during the informal process does not preclude an employee from receiving disciplinary action. If disciplinary action is taken or an employee is required to take some form of action (i.e. attend an educational program) or receives counseling as it pertains to sexual harassment, the policy, etc., the incident will be documented in the employee's personnel file.

All the parties involved at this stage should neither publicize nor divulge the nature of the investigation to anyone, unless it is on a need-to-know basis. All informal complaints will be handled on a confidential basis recognizing, however, to properly resolve or investigate the complaint, it may be necessary to disclose the complainant's identity. University personnel on a need-to-know basis will be notified that a complaint is received and is being addressed.

If it is determined that a serious condition may exist, the matter may be referred for initiation of the formal procedure. This referral may be made by any member of the resolution team. Disciplinary action may be taken without the initiation of the formal procedure.

If the action of the informal resolution team in this informal procedure is not satisfactory to any of the parties involved, the formal procedure may be pursued.

Formal Complaint Procedure
A formal written complaint filed against an employee or student will be directed to the vice president responsible for the accused party. A formal written complaint filed against a third party will be directed to the vice president responsible for Human Resources. Within three working days of receipt of the complaint, the vice president will notify the appropriate department head and the Director of Human Resources. If the complaint is against a faculty member, the faculty member's dean is also to be notified.

The Director of Human Resources or his/her designee is to serve as chair and is to convene a committee of at least three individuals, which will include the department head. If the complaint is against a faculty member, the faculty member's dean is to serve on the committee. If a student is involved, the Dean of Students or his/her designee is to serve on the committee. It will be the responsibility of the Human Resources Director or his/her designee to ensure that the team is comprised of the appropriate individuals to address the complaint. The committee is to be convened within five (5) days of receipt of the complaint.

The committee chair is to notify in writing the accused person that a complaint has been received and is to notify the complainant that the situation is being handled in accordance with the University's policy. The complainant and the accused are to receive acknowledgment letters.

The committee is to review the complaint, investigate the situation, and determine the facts. As a part of the investigation, the accused is to respond in writing to the complaint. The committee has the ability to interview persons who may have knowledge of the situation and obtain documentation or other information that is pertinent.

Decisions regarding the complaint and any recommendations for resolution as well as disciplinary action, if needed, will be reported in writing to the appropriate vice president within ten (10) working days after the committee has been convened.

The vice president shall advise the President and the Director of Human Resources or his/her designee of his/her decision. The vice president shall notify in writing the employee and the complainant of the decision within five (5) working days after the committee recommendation is submitted. A copy of this decision will be provided to the committee.

Appeal Procedure
If a recommendation for an adverse employment action is made against an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the employee may file a grievance in accordance with the grievance procedure outlined in the agreement.

Individuals not covered by a collective bargaining agreement may appeal the decision of a vice president in writing to the President of the University within ten (10) working days from the date of the decision. The President of the University shall respond to the appeal in writing within (10) working days after receipt of the appeal. The decision of the President is final.

Protection of Complainant and Other Persons
All reasonable actions shall be taken to assure the complainant and others involved in the proceedings shall suffer no retaliation. It will be a violation of University policy for anyone to retaliate against an employee, student, applicant or third party who makes a claim of sexual harassment or other persons who assist in the investigation.

Student Complaints of Sexual Harassment
Students must utilize this policy to resolve any complaints of sexual harassment, including complaints against another student or student worker.

If a violation of this policy has been determined to have occurred, any discipline for student workers will be handled by Human Resources Department procedures. This does not preclude the Dean of Students or his/her designee from initiating the appropriate student judicial system procedures. Discipline for students (non-employees) will be handled by the student judicial system. The Dean of Students or his/her designee will be responsible for the initiation of the appropriate student judicial system's procedures, if necessary.

Reaffirmation of the Policy
Periodically, the Human Resources Department and Student Affairs Department will reaffirm and disseminate this policy throughout the University community. In addition, new employees and new students will be provided a copy of this policy when they begin employment or become enrolled.

Robert Morris University
Revised: August 1998