Policy and Procedures Governing Sexual Harassment

campus classSECTION 1. PURPOSE

Southern Connecticut State University reaffirms and emphasizes its commitment to maintain a workplace and educational environment free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is reprehensible and subverts the mission of the university and will not be tolerated at Southern Connecticut State University. It threatens the careers of faculty and staff, and the educational experience of our students. The purpose of this policy is to prevent sexual harassment and to offer students and employees who believe they have been sexually harassed a means to redress any such claim with the goal of ending the harassment and providing an environment conducive to learning and working. Retaliation against an individual who complains about sexual harassment or who cooperates with an investigation of a complaint is unlawful and, if found to have occurred, will not be tolerated by the University.

SECTION 2. STATUTORY AUTHORITY

Sexual harassment is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 46a-60 of the General Statutes of Connecticut and University policy. It is the intention of the University to take whatever appropriate action may be needed to prevent, correct, and if necessary, discipline behavior that violates this policy.

SECTION 3. POLICY STATEMENT

All members of the University community shall conduct themselves in an appropriate manner with concern, dignity and respect for others. The University community includes students, employees, and non-employees when they conduct business on University property.

Sexual harassment may occur between employee and employee, employee and student, or student and student. Complaints of sexual harassment within the University will be taken seriously and investigated. Any member of the University community who violates this policy is subject to the full range of disciplinary action. Sexual harassment in some instances need not be intentional to violate this policy.

In the event of a charge of sexual harassment, a defense based upon consent when the facts establish an employee/student or supervisor/employee relationship existed will be given little weight. Since any significant power differential between members of the University community makes voluntary consent questionable, members of the faculty and staff are expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest.

An individual with a complaint concerning sexual harassment has a right to be heard. By means of these procedures, the university provides an opportunity for an individual (Complainant), without fear of retaliation, to express a complaint and to seek a prompt and equitable resolution while protecting the rights of the person against whom the complaint has been filed (Respondent). These procedures shall be available to any person who, at the time of the act complained of, was an employee, student, or applicant for employment or admission to the University.

SECTION 4. DEFINITION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

"Any unwelcomed sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any 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, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or (3) such conduct has the purpose or affect of substantially interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating hostile or offensive working environment." In an academic setting sexual harassment would also include any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual might affect academic or personnel decisions that are subject to the influence of the person making the proposal.

The law currently recognizes two forms of sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo
Unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's academic work or employment; orSubmission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment or academic decisions affecting such individuals; and

Hostile Environment
Such contact affects or interferes with an individual's work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive academic or working environment. Hostile environment sexual harassment involves speech or conduct that is directed at someone because of their gender and/or is conduct of a sexual nature. Such speech or conduct includes but is not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Such speech or conduct is reasonably regarded as offensive and substantially impairs the academic or work opportunity of students, colleagues or co-workers. In all contexts it must also be persistent and/or pervasive. This policy shall not be interpreted so as to constitute interference with academic freedom.

In addition, this policy covers:

Gender harassment
Gender harassment is a form of sexual harassment which consists of discriminatory behavior towards an individual based on gender. It includes the use of sexist language, illustrations, examples and gestures that demonstrate discriminatory behavior. Sexually-related conduct forms the basis of a sexual harassment claim if a reasonable person of the same gender would consider the actions sufficient to interfere unreasonably with the academic and/or employment performance of the Complainant.

SECTION 5. EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

When any unwanted, unwelcome, or unsolicited sexual conduct is imposed on a person who regards it as offensive or undesirable, it may be sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may include but is not limited to:

Direct unwanted propositions of a sexual nature;Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances is a condition of employment, promotion or advancement in grades, letters of recommendation, scholarships or any related matter;A pattern of conduct intentionally intended and/or which has the effect of humiliating another that includes examples of the following; comments of a sexual nature; sexually explicit statements, questions, anecdotes, jokes, pictures, or other written materials;A pattern of conduct that would humiliate another (using the reasonable person standard) which would include the following: unnecessary touching, patting, hugging, or brushing against another's body, remarks of a sexual nature about a person's clothing or body, or remarks about sexual activity or speculations about sexual experiences.

SECTION 6. CONFIDENTIALITY

The University is committed to take corrective action when it becomes aware of a problem involving sexual harassment. Individuals are strongly encouraged to come forward with complaints regarding sexual harassment and to seek assistance from University officials. The University cannot insure confidentiality upon receipt of a complaint of sexual harassment; however, dissemination of information relating to the case should be limited, in order that the privacy of all individuals involved is safeguarded as fully as possible to the extent permitted by law. The University will enforce compliance with the non-retaliation provision of this policy. The University may proceed to investigate a complaint without the consent of the individual who originally filed the complaint.

The University Counseling Service and the Women's Center are available to provide assistance and guidance to individuals who have complaints about sexual harassment. An individual who comes to a member of the staff or counselor with a concern regarding alleged sexual harassment will be encouraged to file a sexual harassment complaint. However, the counselor will to the extent permitted by law, upon the individual's request, maintain the confidentiality of the information provided to the counselor.

SECTION 7. COMPLAINT PROCEDURES

A complaint alleging a violation of this policy should be directed to one of the following University officials Director of Diversity & Equity Programs, Appropriate Dean, Supervisor, Vice-President.

INFORMAL PROCESS

Complaints should be lodged as soon as possible after the alleged incident, but not later than 180 days after said incident.

The University official who receives the complaint will advise the Complainant of the formal and informal resolution alternatives. With the Complainant's consent, the University official to whom the complaint was brought will assist in the resolution of the problem with the involved parties or direct them to the appropriate party who can aid in resolving the dispute. The complaint will be considered "open for informal resolution". Matters referred for informal resolution must be closed or referred to the Director, Diversity and Equity Programs for formal resolution within thirty (30) days of the lodging of the initial complaint. Extensions may be granted by the Director, Diversity and Equity Programs with the consent of the Complainant.

The University official to whom the complaint is brought must either contact or refer the Complainant to the Office of Diversity and Equity Programs:

Provide the Complainant with a copy of the Sexual Harassment Policy,Advise the Complainant as to the options available under this policy, including, but not limited to, the 180 day time limit for filing a CHRO complaint.Notify the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs, in writing, of the complaint within 48 hours with a statement of how the matter will be handled; and notify the Respondent within 14 days of the lodging of the initial complaint.

FORMAL PROCESS

If the informal process is unsuccessful or if the Complainant employee wishes to bypass the informal process, he/she may file a formal complaint with the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs within 180 calendar days of the alleged harassment giving rise to the complaint.  (Please note that the 180 day time limit also applies to filing a CHRO complaint.)  If a University official becomes aware of a claim of harassment and believes that the claim has merit and requires further investigation, the University official can file a formal complaint.  Although the University will attempt to keep the Complainant's name confidential, the Complainant cannot be given an absolute promise of confidentiality.  This does not mitigate the University's belief that all participants should maintain confidentiality.  The Complainant will be informed that the University official intends to file a formal complaint and will explain to the Complainant what the University will do to prevent, and if necessary, to address acts of retaliation.  The Complainant and the Respondent shall have the right to representation, and shall be afforded due process.  Anyone wishing to file a formal complaint will be asked to put the complaint in writing; alternatively, the University official who received the informal complaint may opt to reduce the complaint to writing in order to proceed with the investigation.  A written complaint shall include the name of the Complainant, the name of the Respondent, the date(s) of the alleged harassment, the location of the alleged harassment, a description of the incident(s), including any statements made by those present at the incident and a list of all known witnesses.  The Complainant should also indicate whether any specific remedy is being sought.  The Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs will notify in writing the Respondent that a complaint has been filed and provide him/her a copy of the complaint, a copy of the Sexual Harassment Policy and all accompanying material within seven calendar days of the filing.  Within fifteen calendar days of the filing of the formal charge, the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs will afford all parties the opportunity to participate in mediation.  The University will designate a mediator who has been trained to mediate such disputes.  If the Complainant or the Respondent decides not to participate in mediation or if the mediation is not successful, the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs will further investigate the charges.  The purpose of the investigation is to gather information and verify the facts in the dispute.  The Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs has the authority to interview witnesses and to review personnel files.  Investigations will be conducted in a fair and impartial manner.  The Complainant and the Respondent will be given the full opportunity to present his/her position.  The findings in the investigation will be made available to all parties and submitted to the President within forty-five (45) calendar days of the filing of the formal complaint.

The findings in the investigation can include the following:

No violation of the policy has occurred based upon the information available and no further action is warranted;The parties have reached a mutually acceptable resolution that complies with the Sexual Harassment Policy and any applicable collective bargaining agreements; orThere is a reason to believe that the Respondent has engaged in conduct violating this policy, a mutually acceptable resolution cannot be reached and further action by the University is warranted.

APPEAL OF FINDING

Upon a finding by the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs that the University policy has been violated, the Respondent shall have ten (10) days to appeal said finding to the Sexual Harassment Appeals Panel.  This Panel, appointed by the President, will have been trained in the area of Sexual Harassment law and administrative process.  It will be comprised of five (5) members representing the following University constituencies:

Instructional Faculty (AAUP)Administrative Faculty/Staff (SUOAF-AFSCME)Clerical/Maintenance (AFSCME)Students (Student Government Association)At-large (Presidential Discretion)

The Panel shall hear the appeal within thirty (30) days of its filing.  The Panel's charge will be to ascertain the validity of the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs finding, then either uphold said finding, modify it, or overturn it.  In any event, the decision should be rendered within thirty (30) days of said hearing and presented to the President.

The conduct of said hearing shall follow standard administrative law procedure and though formal in process, shall not strictly adhere to traditional rules of evidence or civil procedure.  However, both Complainant and Respondent will be permitted to be represented by counsel, or an advocate.  The Panel will ensure that both Complainant and Respondent have access to all relevant documents to the extent permitted by law.  Access shall include but not be limited to all documents presented to or considered by the panel.

Should the panel uphold the finding of the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs that the Sexual Harassment Policy has been violated, the Respondent can then appeal only to the President.

Should the panel overturn said finding of the Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs, the case is disposed of as far as the University is concerned.  However, once overturned the Complainant can then at his/her option file his/her complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the office of Civil Rights (OCR) or exercise whatever legal options he/she chooses.

SANCTIONS

In the event of finding that a violation of the policy has occurred, and a mutually agreeable resolution has not been reached to the satisfaction of the parties and the University, appropriate corrective actions for staff and faculty will be governed by the disciplinary articles of the appropriate collective bargaining agreement, the personnel policies if there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect, or for the students the disciplinary articles under the Student Code of Conduct.

SECTION 8. RETALIATION

Swift and appropriate action will be taken against any member of the University community who is found to have retaliated against any other member of the University community because he/she reported sexual harassment, assisted in the investigation of a sexual harassment complaint, or testified or otherwise participated in a proceeding or hearing relating to an allegation of sexual harassment within the University. Retaliation may include, but is not limited to, any form of hostility, intimidation, reprisal or harassment.

SECTION 9. ALTERNATIVE LEGAL REMEDIES

Nothing contained in the Policy is intended to deny any member of the University community the right to pursue other avenues of recourse in the event he/she believes that he/she has experienced sexual harassment.  Such recourse may include filing charges with a state or federal enforcement agency, or initiating civil or criminal action under state and federal law.

SECTION 10. DISSEMINATION OF POLICY

This Policy shall be conspicuously posted throughout each school building in areas accessible to students, faculty and staff members.  This policy shall appear in the student handbook and faculty handbook and shall be reviewed periodically for compliance with state and federal law.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THIS POLICY OR FOR HELP WITH A SEXUAL HARASSMENT PROBLEM, CONSULT - The Director, Office of Diversity and Equity Programs, Pamela M. Lassiter, Buley Library 207, (203) 392-5491.

For more general information, you may contact the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, 21 Grand Street, Hartford, CT 06106; (860) 541-3400, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, One Congress Street, 10th Floor, Suite 1001, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114; (800) 669-4000, (617) 565-3200 or the Department of Education, Boston Office, Office of Civil Rights, Room 222, J W McCormack Building, Post Office and Court House, Boston, MA 02109; (617) 223-9662.

The policy will include an appendix with names and addresses of university officials, student counseling, Women's Center, etc. that can be changed as needed.