Discrimination, Harassment and Inappropriate Romantic Relationships, Policy Against

Title: Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Inappropriate Romantic Relationships
Policy Owner: Office of Diversity & Equity
Applies to: Faculty, Staff, Students
Campus Applicability:  The policy applies to the Storrs and regional campuses (including the Law School and the School of Social Work) including any and all off campus programs and any other site under the control of the University where university employees work.
Effective Date: September 24, 2013
For More Information, Contact Office of Diversity and Equity
Contact Information: (860) 486-2943
Official Website: http://ode.uconn.edu/

 

I. Statement of Purpose

The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community – students, employees, or visitors.  Academic and professional excellence can exist only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect.  All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment.  In addition, inappropriate Romantic relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority.  To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate Romantic relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University.

 

II. Non-Discrimination

It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free from discrimination.  Discrimination is contrary to the mission and standards of the University, it diminishes individual dignity, and it impedes equal employment and educational opportunities.  Discrimination is conduct that is based upon an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, genetic information, physical or mental disabilities (including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, past/present history of a mental disorder), veteran status, prior conviction of a crime, workplace hazards to reproductive systems, gender identity or expression, or membership in other protected classes set forth in state or federal law that excludes an individual from participation, denies the individual the benefits of, treats the individual differently, or otherwise adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment or participation in a University program or activity.  Discrimination includes failing to provide reasonable accommodation, consistent with state and federal law, to persons with disabilities.

III. Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment

The University will not tolerate discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community.  Discriminatory harassment consists of offensive behavior directed at an individual or group based upon an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, genetic information, physical or mental disabilities (including learning disabilities, intellectual disability, past/present history of a mental disorder), veteran status, prior conviction of a crime, workplace hazards to reproductive systems, gender identity or expression, or membership in other protected classes set forth in state or federal law.  Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts, name-calling, graphic or written statements (including the use of cell phones or the Internet), or other conduct that may be humiliating or physically threatening.  The University strictly prohibits making submission to discriminatory harassment a term or condition of an individual’s employment, performance appraisal, or evaluation of academic performance.  The University also forbids discriminatory harassment that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating a hostile environment.  Such behavior is particularly offensive to the spirit of this policy when those in positions of authority are involved in perpetrating harassment.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.  It can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.[1] Sexual harassment also may include inappropriate touching, suggestive comments and public display of pornographic or suggestive calendars, posters, or signs where such images are not connected to any academic purpose.  Sexual harassment, including sexual assault, can involve persons of the same or opposite sex.  Acts that do not necessarily involve conduct of a sexual nature but are based on sex or sex-stereotyping, and which may include physical aggression, intimidation or hostility, are considered sex-based harassment and are similarly prohibited.  All forms of sexual and sex-based harassment and discrimination are considered serious offenses by the University.

A violation of this policy will be found where: (a) submission to harassment of any kind is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, performance appraisal, or evaluation of academic performance; or (b) these actions have the effect of creating a hostile learning or working environment.  Discriminatory harassment creates a hostile environment when the harassment is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent to deny, limit or unreasonably interfere with a student’s or employee’s ability to participate in or benefit from the academic or work environment.[2] State and federal law protects individuals from discrimination or discriminatory harassment in connection with employment and all academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic or other programs of a school.  This protection extends to conduct that occurs both on and off University property.

IV. Reporting Concerns of Discrimination or Harassment

Any person who believes that s/he is being or has been discriminatorily harassed or otherwise subjected to discrimination by a University employee or person doing business with the University is encouraged to contact the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), which includes the Title IX Coordinator.  ODE is located in Wood Hall, Unit 4175, 241 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4175; Telephone (860) 486-2943; Email: ode@uconn.edu.  In particular, any person who believes s/he has been sexually harassed or discriminated against by any member of the University community on the basis of his or her sex (gender) is encouraged to contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Elizabeth Conklin, Wood Hall, Unit 4175, 241 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4175, Telephone: (860) 486-2943; Email: titleix@uconn.edu.  The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that complaints of this nature are addressed by the appropriate University administrators and will assist the parties in receiving support services.  The Title IX Coordinator also will facilitate any interim measures that may be necessary during the investigation to protect the parties in the University setting.

Early reporting of concerns is encouraged because early intervention can prevent a situation from escalating.  No person should feel compelled to wait to report concerns until discriminatory harassment becomes sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent to create a hostile environment.

Complaints against students are handled by Community Standards and are governed by the provisions of The Student Code.  Therefore, complaints about student misconduct (including graduate students) should be reported to Community Standards, Wilbur Cross Building, Room 301, 233 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4119, Storrs, CT 06269-4119; Telephone: (860) 486-8402; Email: community@uconn.edu.

V. Deans, Directors, Department Heads and Supervisors – Reporting Obligations for Discrimination and Harassment

All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of a social environment in which people are free to work and learn without fear of discrimination or harassment.  The failure of supervisors at any level to remedy known discrimination or discriminatory harassment violates this policy as seriously as that of the original discriminatory act.  As a result, deans, directors, department heads, and supervisors receiving information, including but not limited to informal and formal complaints and reports, that any University employee or person doing business with the University has engaged in discrimination or discriminatory harassment must alert ODE as to the nature of the incident and also refer the inquirer to ODE as soon as it is disclosed or becomes known to the dean, director, department head or supervisor.

Deans, directors, department heads, and supervisors receiving information, including but not limited to informal and formal complaints and reports, that a student (including graduate students) has engaged in discrimination or discriminatory harassment must alert Community Standards as to the nature of the incident and refer the inquirer to Community Standards as soon as it is disclosed or becomes known to the dean, director, department head or supervisor.

VI. Inappropriate Romantic Relationships

For the purposes of this policy, “Romantic relationships” are defined as intimate, sexual, and/or any other type of amorous encounter or relationship, whether casual or serious, short-term or long-term.

A. Instructional/Student Context

All faculty and staff must be aware that Romantic relationships with students are likely to lead to difficulties and have the potential to place faculty and staff at great personal and professional risk.  The power difference inherent in the faculty-student or staff-student relationship means that any Romantic relationship between a faculty or staff member and a student is potentially exploitative or could at any time be perceived as exploitative and should be avoided.  Faculty and staff engaged in such relationships should be sensitive to the continuous possibility that they may unexpectedly be placed in a position of responsibility for the student’s instruction or evaluation.  In the event of a charge of sexual harassment arising from such circumstances, the University will in general be unsympathetic to a defense based upon consent when the facts establish that a faculty-student or staff-student power differential existed within the relationship.

i. Undergraduate Students

Subject to the limited exceptions herein, all members of the faculty and staff are prohibited from pursuing or engaging in a Romantic relationship with any undergraduate student.

ii. Graduate Students

With respect to graduate students (including but not limited to Master’s, Law, Doctoral, and any other post-baccalaureate students), all faculty and staff are prohibited from pursuing or engaging in a Romantic relationship with a graduate student under that individual’s authority. Situations of authority include, but are not limited to: teaching; formal mentoring or advising; supervision of research and employment of a student as a research or teaching assistant; exercising substantial responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; and involvement in disciplinary action related to the student.

Students and faculty/staff alike should be aware that pursuing or engaging in a Romantic relationship with any graduate student will limit the faculty or staff member’s ability to teach, mentor, advise, direct work, employ and promote the career of the student involved with him or her in a Romantic relationship.

iii. Graduate Students in Positions of Authority

Like faculty and staff members, graduate students, while at all times considered students and not employees for the purposes of this policy, may nonetheless themselves be in a position of authority over other students, for example, when serving as a teaching assistant in a course or when supervising other students in research.  The power difference inherent in such relationships means that any Romantic relationship between a graduate student and another student over whom they have authority is potentially exploitative and should be avoided.  All graduate students currently or previously engaged in a Romantic relationship with another student are prohibited from serving in a position of authority over that student.  Graduate students also should be sensitive to the continuous possibility that they may unexpectedly be placed in a position of responsibility for another student’s instruction or evaluation.

iv. Pre-existing Relationships with Any Student

The University recognizes that a Romantic relationship may exist prior to the time a student enrolls at the University or, for Romantic relationships with graduate students, prior to the time the faculty or staff member is placed in a position of authority over the graduate student.  Using the Romantic Relationships Disclosure Form, the current or prior existence of such a Romantic relationship must be disclosed to the Office of Diversity and Equity and/or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations by the employee in a position of authority immediately if the student is an undergraduate, and prior to accepting a supervisory role of any type over any graduate student.

All faculty and staff currently or previously engaged in a Romantic relationship with a student are prohibited from the following unless effective steps have been taken in conjunction with Labor Relations and the applicable dean or vice president to eliminate any potential conflict of interest in accordance with this policy: teaching; formal mentoring or advising; supervising research; exercising responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; considering disciplinary action involving the student; or employing the student in any capacity – including but not limited to student employment and internships, work study, or as a research or teaching assistant.

Similarly, all graduate students currently or previously engaged in a Romantic relationship with another student are prohibited from serving in a position of authority over that student.

v. If a Romantic Relationship Occurs with Any Student

If, despite these warnings, a faculty member, staff member, or graduate student becomes involved in a Romantic relationship with a student in violation of this policy, the faculty member, staff member, or graduate student must disclose the relationship immediately to the Office of Diversity and Equity or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations using the Romantic Relationships Disclosure Form.  Absent an extraordinary circumstance, no relationships in violation of this policy will be permitted while the student is enrolled or the faculty or staff member is employed by the University.  In most cases, it will be unlikely that an acceptable resolution to the conflict of interest will be possible, and the faculty or staff member’s employment standing or the graduate student’s position of authority may need to be adjusted until s/he no longer has supervisory or other authority over the student.

In addition to the Romantic relationship itself, a faculty, staff or graduate student’s failure to report the existence of an inappropriate Romantic relationship with a student is also a violation of this policy.  The University encourages immediate self-reporting, and will consider this factor in the context of any resolution that may be able to be reached.

B. Employment Context

Romantic relationships between supervisors and their subordinate employees often adversely affect decisions, distort judgment, and undermine workplace morale for all employees, including those not directly engaged in the relationship.  Any University employee who participates in supervisory or administrative decisions concerning an employee with whom s/he has or has had a Romantic relationship has a conflict of interest in those situations. These types of relationships, specifically those involving spouses and/or individuals who reside together, also may violate the State Code of Ethics for Public Officials as well as the University’s Policy on Employment and Contracting for Service of Relatives.

Accordingly, the University prohibits all faculty and staff from pursuing or engaging in Romantic relationships with employees whom they supervise.  No supervisor shall initiate or participate in institutional decisions involving a direct benefit or penalty (employment, retention, promotion, tenure, salary, leave of absence, etc.) to a person with whom that individual has or has had a Romantic relationship.  The individual in a position of authority can be held accountable for creating a sexually hostile environment or failing to address a sexually hostile environment and thus should avoid creating or failing to address a situation that adversely impacts the working environment of others.

i. Pre-existing Romantic Relationships Between Supervisors and Subordinate Employees

The University recognizes that a Romantic relationship may exist prior to the time an individual is assigned to a supervisor.  Supervisory, decision-making, oversight, evaluative or advisory relationships for someone with whom there exists or previously has existed a Romantic relationship is unacceptable unless effective steps have been taken to eliminate any potential conflict of interest in accordance with this policy.  The current or prior existence of such a relationship must be disclosed by the employee in a position of authority prior to accepting supervision of the subordinate employee to the Office of Diversity and Equity and/or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations using the Romantic Relationships Disclosure Form.  Working with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations, the relevant managers will determine whether the conflict of interest can be eliminated through termination of the situation of authority.  The final determination will be at the sole discretion of the relevant dean or vice president.

ii. If a Romantic Relationship Occurs or has Occurred between a Supervisor and his/her Subordinate Employee

If, despite these warnings, a University employee enters into a Romantic relationship with someone over whom s/he has supervisory, decision-making, oversight, evaluative, or advisory responsibilities, that employee must disclose the existence of the relationship immediately to the Office of Diversity and Equity and/or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations using the Romantic Relationships Disclosure Form.  In consultation with appropriate University administrators, the relevant dean or vice president will determine whether the conflict of interest can be eliminated.  The final determination will be at the sole discretion of the relevant dean or vice president.  In most cases, it will be unlikely that an acceptable resolution to the conflict of interest will be possible.  If the conflict of interest cannot be eliminated, the supervisor’s employment standing may need to be adjusted.  In addition to the Romantic relationship itself, a supervisor’s failure to report the existence of the relationship with a subordinate employee is also a violation of this policy.  The University encourages immediate self-reporting, and will consider this factor in the context of any resolution that may be able to be reached.

C. Deans, Directors, Department Heads and Supervisors –Reporting Obligations for All Romantic Relationships in Violation of this Policy

Any dean, director, department head or supervisor who is aware or becomes aware of the existence of a Romantic relationship involving any University employee with a student or subordinate employee in violation of this policy must inform the Office of Diversity and Equity and/or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations as to the existence of the relationship as soon as it is disclosed or becomes known to the dean, director, department head or supervisor.  The failure of supervisors at any level to report the existence of a prohibited Romantic relationship is a violation of this policy.

Any dean, director, department head or supervisor who is aware or becomes aware of the existence of a Romantic relationship involving any University graduate student with a student in violation of this policy must alert Community Standards.

Any employee, even those without supervisory authority, who becomes aware of a Romantic relationship that may be in violation of this policy is encouraged to alert the Office of Diversity and Equity and/or the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations as to the existence of the relationship.  Non-supervisory employees also may choose to utilize the Office of Audit, Compliance and Ethics Anonymous Reportline: (888) 685-2637.

VII. Non-Retaliation

The University encourages individuals to bring forward information and/or complaints about alleged violations of state or federal law, and University policy, rules, or regulations.  Retaliation against any individual who, in good faith, reports or who participates in the investigation of alleged violations is strictly forbidden.  For more information, please see the University’s Non-Retaliation Policy: http://policy.uconn.edu/?p=415

VIII. Related University Policies

IX. Review Period

The Title IX Coordinator is required to oversee the review of this policy in accordance with the University’s Policy Protocol.  The Title IX Coordinator will oversee a full review of this policy no later than two years after initial approval and then subsequently as needed.

Attachment A: University Resources

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) and Title IX Coordinator

ODE investigates complaints alleging violations of University Policy against Discrimination, Harassment and Inappropriate Romantic Relationships, and coordinates the University’s response to allegations of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence arising under University Policy and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act.  ODE also conducts state-mandated and university-mandated diversity and sexual harassment prevention trainings.  ODE is located on the first floor of Wood Hall, 241 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4175; Storrs, CT 06269-4175. Telephone: (860) 486-2943; Email:  ode@uconn.edu; titleix@uconn.edu

The Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations (OSFLR)

OFSLR provides direction and guidance on how to effectively manage relationships with the numerous labor organizations that represent the University’s workforce.  In close collaboration with Human Resources and the University administration, OFSLR ensures that personnel actions are in compliance with University-specific and statewide collective bargaining agreements.  OFSLR actively participates in developing and enforcing workplace policies and procedures and supports the University’s ongoing compliance with laws and regulations that govern the employment relationship. OFSLR is located on the Depot Campus in the Brown Building, 9 Walters Avenue, Unit 5075; Storrs, CT 06269-5075.  Telephone: (860) 486-8724; Email: laborrelations@uconn.edu

The Office of Community Standards

The Office of Community Standards is responsible for managing “Responsibilities of Community Life: The Student Code,” which sets forth the standards for student behavior in the University community.  Community Standards is a resource where student conduct is at issue and is located within the Wilbur Cross Building, Room 301, 233 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4119; Storrs, CT 06269-4119.  Telephone: (860) 486-8402; Email: community@uconn.edu

The Office of Audit, Compliance and Ethics (OACE)

OACE is responsible for promoting a University-wide culture of compliance and ethics, and accepts reports of compliance concerns or requests for advice.  Reports can be submitted using the twenty-four hour confidential Reportline – (888) 685-2637.  Individuals who report possible compliance issues in good faith will be accorded confidentiality and/or anonymity to the extent possible under the law.  OACE is located in the Brown Building, 9 Walters Avenue, Unit 5084; Storrs, CT 06269-5084. Telephone: (860) 486-4526; Email: reportline@uconn.edu

Attachment B: External Reporting Options

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

OCR enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Boston Office, U.S. Dept. of Education, 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor; Boston, MA 02109-3921. Telephone: (617) 289-0111; TTD: (877) 521-2172; www.ed.gov/ocr

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.  Boston Area Office, John F. Kennedy Federal Building, 475 Government Ctr.; Boston, MA 02203.  Telephone: (800) 669-4000; TTD: (800) 669-6820;  www.eeoc.gov

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)

The CHRO enforces state and federal civil rights laws that ban illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit transactions.  Administrative Headquarters, 25 Sigourney Street; Hartford, CT 06106.  Telephone: (800) 477-5737; TTD: (860) 541-3459; www.ct.gov/chro


[1] For more on the University’s policies related to sexual violence, please see the University’s Sexual Assault Reporting Policy found on the University’s sexual violence awareness website: www.sexualviolence.uconn.edu.

[2] A single instance of sexual violence may be sufficient to create a hostile environment.

Policy Adopted: August 7, 2013

Revised: September 24, 2013