Sexual Harassment Policy

SEXUAL HARASSMENT*

It is the policy of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College that sexual harassment of faculty and staff is prohibited in the workplace and in the recruitment, appointment, and advancement of employees; sexual harassment of students is prohibited in and out of the classroom and in the evaluation of students’ academic performance. It is also the policy of the College that accusations of sexual harassment which are made without good cause shall not be condoned.

INFORMATION SOURCES. If a sexual harassment complainant does not know who to inform the allegations of sexual harassment, he/she may seek assistance from the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer. If an extraordinary conflict of interest would prevent use of the usual informal or formal review procedures, the complainant may request assistance directly from the Office of the President.

PROCEDURES. All persons who believe that they have been subjected to prohibited sexual harassment are encouraged to report such conduct to appropriate College officials. It is not necessary that the complainant file a formal complaint in order for the College to evaluate the matter and/or attempt to informally resolve the situation. Persons who believe that they have been subjected to prohibited sexual harassment may seek either informal or formal College evaluation and response to their concerns. However, in order for disciplinary action to be taken against a College employee, it may be necessary for a formal complaint to be filed, and that process may require the complainant to cooperate with College officials on a formal basis.

A detailed recitation of the procedures that will be followed in response to cases of alleged sexual harassment, as well as to other related issues, is as follows.

GENERAL STATEMENT

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College explicitly condemns sexual harassment of students, staff, and faculty and will not tolerate such conduct on or off campus. Sexual harassment is unlawful and may subject those who engage in it to College disciplinary sanctions as well as civil and criminal penalties.

Sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace and in the recruitment, appointment, and advancement of employees. Sexual harassment of students is prohibited in and out of the classroom and in the evaluation of student academic or work performance. The College reserves the authority to independently deal with sexual harassment issues whenever they become aware of their existence, regardless of whether informal or formal complaints have been lodged by persons complaining of such issues.

*Approved by the Board of Regents for OSU/A&M Colleges July 24, 1998.

Members of the College community holding positions of authority involving the legitimate exercise of power over others have a particular responsibility to be sensitive to that power relationship. Supervisors, in their relationships with students and subordinates, need to be aware of potential conflicts of interest and the possible compromise of their evaluative capacity. Because there is an inherent power difference in these relationships, the potential exists for the less powerful persons to perceive a coercive element in suggestions regarding activities outside those appropriate to the professional relationship. It is the responsibility of staff to behave in such a manner that their words or actions cannot reasonably be perceived as sexually coercive, abusive, or exploitative.

Sexual harassment also can involve relationships among equals such as when repeated advances, demeaning verbal behavior, or offensive physical contact interfere with an individual’s ability to work and study productively. The creation or condonation of hostile working environments will not be tolerated and employees at all levels are subject to potential disciplinary action if engaged in such actions.

DEFINITIONS

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly, as a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing;

2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions or academic decisions affecting such individual; or

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 working or academic environment.

EXAMPLES

It is not possible to exhaustively list all examples of conduct which can constitute sexual harassment. The following list of examples of conduct prohibited by this policy statement is intended to aid in the understanding of this area. Conduct prohibited by this policy statement may include, but is not limited to:

1. Verbal Conduct

a. Unwelcome sexual flirtation, advances or propositions for sexual activity. Asking about someone else’s personal social or sexual life or about their sexual fantasies, preferences, or history may constitute sexual harassment. Discussing your own personal sexual fantasies, preferences, or history or repeatedly asking for a date from a person who is not interested may also constitute sexual harassment.

b. Continued or repeated verbal abuse of a sexual nature and/or suggestive comments and sexually explicit jokes, or turning discussions at work to sexual topics may constitute sexual harassment. Making offensive sounds such as smacking or licking lips, making kissing sounds, or “wolf whistles” may constitute sexual harassment.

c. Sexually offensive or degrading language used to describe an individual or remarks of a sexual nature to describe a person’s body or clothing and calling a person a “hunk,” “doll,” “babe, “sugar,” or “honey,” or similar descriptive terms may constitute sexual harassment if the person being so described is offended by such terms or if others hearing the references are offended.

d. Stating, indicating, or implying in any manner that benefits will be gained or lost based on response to sexual advances, such conduct is sexual harassment and will result in severe administrative response.

2. Non-Verbal

a. Displaying sexually demeaning or offensive objects and pictures, nude or semi-nude photographs and drawings, or computer software is very likely to be viewed as sexual harassment.

b. Staring at someone, blocking another person’s path or otherwise restricting his/her movements, such acts, particularly when in conjunction with other acts or comments, may be viewed as sexual harassment. Invading a person’s personal body space, such as by standing closer than appropriate or necessary for the work being done may similarly constitute sexual harassment.

c. Bringing physical items to work which express sexually offensive comments regarding men or women. Messages of this nature such as might be contained on coffee mugs, hats, or tee shirts may be offensive and be viewed as sexual harassment.

d. Making sexual gestures with hands or body movements, such as looking a person up and down in a suggestive or intimidating manner may also constitute sexual harassment.

e. Letters, gifts, or materials of a sexual nature. Such attention may not be appreciated in the manner intended, may be offensive to the subject of the attention, and may constitute sexual harassment.

3. Physical

a. Offensive physical contact or possible problem areas include: Massaging a person’s neck or shoulders; touching a person’s clothing, hair, or body; hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking a person’s body; touching or rubbing oneself in a sexual manner around or in the view of another person; brushing up against another person; tearing, pulling, or yanking a person’s clothing may all constitute sexual harassment.

b. Sexual assault, coerced sexual intercourse or other sexual contact constitute sexual harassment.

RETALIATION AND COMPLAINTS WITHOUT REASONABLE BASIS

Just as the College is sensitive to the problems that are associated with sexual harassment, it also understands the serious and far-reaching ramifications that complaints of sexual harassment can have on the personal and professional lives of employees who are accused of engaging in activities constituting sexual harassment.

It is a violation of College policy for an employee to initiate any personal action outside of the judicial system or established College disciplinary systems in retaliation or reprisal against a faculty member, staff employee, or student for reporting sexual harassment in good faith. It is likewise a violation of College policy for anyone to make an accusation of sexual harassment without good cause or reasonable basis. Such types of conduct may result in disciplinary action by the College.

SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITY

Prohibited sexual harassment may result not only from situations between supervisors and subordinate employees, but also between employees who have no direct or indirect supervisory relationship with one another. Supervisors are charged with the responsibility of responding immediately and appropriately to correct any situations which create a hostile working or educational environment within an administrative unit under their supervision. Supervisors who are concerned about whether such a situation is developing or who desire assistance in appropriately responding to such a situation should seek assistance from the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer. Any supervisor who fails to appropriately respond to a hostile working or educational environment, or to seek assistance from the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer when a hostile working or educational environment situation develops which reasonably should have been perceived by the supervisor, may be subject to disciplinary action.

 

PROCEDURES

All persons who believe that they have been subjected to prohibited sexual harassment are encouraged to report such conduct to appropriate College officials. It is not necessary that a complainant file a formal complaint in order for the College to evaluate the matter and/or attempt to informally resolve the situation. Persons who believe that they have been subjected to prohibited sexual harassment may seek either informal or formal College evaluation and response to their concerns. However, in order for disciplinary action to be taken against a College employee, it may be necessary for a formal complaint to be filed, and that process may require the person complaining about such behavior to cooperate with College officials on a formal basis.

INFORMATION

If the sexual harassment complainant does not know who to talk to regarding allegations of sexual harassment, he/she may seek assistance from the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer. If an extraordinary conflict of interest would prevent use of the usual informal or formal review procedures, the person complaining of sexual harassment may request assistance directly from the Office of the President.

INFORMAL RESOLUTION

Many times, issues of concern are due to lack of communication or awareness that certain conduct is offensive and simply talking with the person engaging in the conduct in question can resolve the matter. Persons complaining of sexual harassment may therefore desire to attempt to resolve the problem informally by discussing the matter with the person who is allegedly engaging in prohibited conduct or by talking with supervisory officials.

If informal discussion with a supervisory official is desired, the concerns ordinarily should be directed to the immediate supervisor of the employee accused of engaging in sexual harassment. However, if the person complaining of sexual harassment is uncomfortable discussing the matter with such immediate supervisor, if the person accused of engaging in prohibited conduct is the supervisor or the person lodging concerns, or if the supervisor has previously been made aware of the conduct at issue and is not believed to have adequately responded to the matter, the person complaining of sexual harassment may ask to discus the matter with College officials at a higher supervisory level. Any College supervisory official overseeing the area where the accused employee works through the level of Vice President, or the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer, may be contacted for informal discussion regarding the matter of concern. Such officials will evaluate the matter and, if the concerns expressed are believed to have merit, will attempt to aid the person complaining of sexual harassment in informally resolving the matter to the extent possible. A written record will be made of the informal discussions and interactions and such record will be maintained in a confidential manner for future reference as might be necessary.

FORMAL REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION

If a person complaining of sexual harassment does not believe that informal attempts to resolve issues of concern have been successful and therefore desires to lodge a formal complaint, or if informal resolution attempts are not believed to be possible, that person may file a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment and asking that appropriate steps be taken in response to the complaint by the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer.

Any formal complaint must be filed with the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer within 180 calendar days of the act(s) of alleged sexual harassment.

Upon receipt of a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment, the Personnel Services/ Affirmative Action Officer (or other appropriate administrator) is empowered to conduct an initial investigation of the charge, to interview the parties involved, to hear testimony pertaining to the matter, and to gather any pertinent evidence. During such initial investigation, the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer is authorized to explore means by which the matter may still be informally resolved.

All College employees are obligated to fully cooperate with such an investigation and refusal or willful neglect to do so may subject such employees to independent disciplinary action, including possible termination, based upon such refusal or willful neglect. The investigating official may request assistance or advice from the Office of Legal Counsel to the Board of Regents.

The initial investigation should ordinarily be completed within 30 calendar days of receipt of the complaint. However, unusual circumstances may compel that the initial investigation extend beyond the usual 30-day time frame.

In arriving at a determination of the existence of sexual harassment, at any stage in the proceedings, the evidence as a whole, the totality of the circumstances, and the context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred, shall be considered. The determination of the existence of sexual harassment will be made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

On concluding the initial investigation, the investigating official will prepare a written report of the investigation. Copies of such reports shall be made available to the person complaining of sexual harassment and the accused employee, and may be confidentially shared with other administrative officials as deemed appropriate.

Upon completion of the initial investigation, the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer is authorized to take the following action:

1. Agreed Resolution

The matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the College and both the person complaining of sexual harassment and the employee accused of sexual harassment. If such a resolution is reached through the efforts of the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer or other administrator, a written statement shall be prepared which shall indicate the agreement reached by the parties and shall be signed and dated by each party and by the administrator. A copy of such written statement shall be attached to the initial investigation report. At that time the investigation and the record thereof shall be closed.

2. Formal Recommendation

If the parties are unable to resolve the matter informally, the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer or other administrator will make a written recommendation to appropriate administrative officials regarding whether acts of sexual harassment have occurred. Such report will be limited to factual recommendations regarding the existence of prohibited conduct and will not include recommendations regarding actions to take in response to the report.

Upon receipt of a formal written recommendation from the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer, the administrative official overseeing the administrative unit in question shall review the recommendation and make a final decision regarding what administrative action to take in response to the recommendation, if any. If no action is to be taken due to a finding that the allegations of sexual harassment are unfounded, the administrative official shall consult with his/her immediate supervisor prior to making such decision. Where administrative actions are to be directed in response to a written report, the administrative supervisor may consult with the Personnel Services/Affirmative Action Officer or other appropriate administrative officials regarding such actions prior to implementation.

APPEAL OF DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS

Where administrative actions in response to allegations of sexual harassment are directed, the accused employee may seek further institutional review as set forth in the College’s regular disciplinary appeal procedures

REASSIGNMENT PENDING REVIEW

At any stage in the investigation and review process, if it is reasonably believed that immediate harm to either party is threatened by the continued performance of either party’s regular duties of College responsibilities, the appropriate administrative official may suspend or reassign such duties or responsibilities pending the completion of the investigation and review process.

WITHDRAWAL OF COMPLAINT

The sexual harassment complainant may withdraw the complaint at any point during the investigation or prior to the completion of any formal hearing on the matter. Once a complaint is withdrawn, it may not be refiled and will not be further considered except where the conduct constitutes part of a continuing pattern of similar conduct.