Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy

I. Introduction

Excelsior College is committed to maintaining a workplace free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination. All employees are required to work in a manner that prevents sexual harassment of any employee by anyone in the workplace (including supervisors, co-workers, consultants, vendors and other nonemployees). This policy is one component of the College’s commitment to a discrimination free work environment (see cross reference to related policies below in Section VIII ). Such discrimination, including harassment of any kind, is prohibited by law and by the College. The behavior of individuals engaging in such conduct, or supervisors or managers who knowingly allow such behavior to continue, will not be tolerated. Employees are urged to report sexual harassment by filing a complaint internally with Human Resources as outlined in this policy.

II. Policy

This policy applies to all employees, faculty, applicants for employment, interns, whether paid or unpaid, contractors and persons conducting business, regardless of immigration status with the College. In the remainder of this document, the term “employees” refers to this collective group.

Sexual harassment is offensive, a violation of our policies, is unlawful, may subject the College to liability for harm to targets of sexual harassment and will not be tolerated. Harassers may also be individually subject to liability. Employees of every level who engage in sexual harassment, including managers and supervisors who engage in sexual harassment or who allow such behavior to continue, will be penalized for such misconduct.

Employees are strongly encouraged to report any incidents that they feel in good faith to be a potential violation of this policy as outlined in section IV. The College will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation that ensures due process for all parties, whenever management or Human Resources receives a complaint about sexual harassment, or otherwise knows of possible sexual harassment occurring. The College will keep the investigation confidential to the extent possible. Effective corrective action will be taken whenever sexual harassment is found to have occurred. All employees, including managers and supervisors, are required to cooperate with any internal investigation of sexual harassment. Managers and supervisors are required to report any complaint that they receive, or any harassment that they observe or become aware of as outlined in section IV.

Retaliation:

No person covered by this policy shall be subject to adverse action because the employee reports an incident of sexual harassment, provides information, or otherwise assists in any investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. The College will not tolerate such retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, reports or provides information about suspected sexual harassment. Any employee who retaliates against anyone involved in a sexual harassment investigation will be subjected to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of their employment. Anyone working in the workplace who believes they have been subject to such retaliation should inform Human Resources immediately.

III. What is “Sexual Harassment”?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is unlawful under federal,
state, and (where applicable) local law. Sexual harassment includes harassment on the
basis of sex, sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, gender
identity and the status of being transgender. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome
conduct which is either of a sexual nature, or which is directed at an individual because of
that individual’s sex when:

  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, even if the reporting individual is not the intended target of the sexual harassment;
  • Such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an individual’s employment.

A sexually harassing hostile work environment includes, but is not limited to, words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or physical violence which are of a sexual nature, or which are directed at an individual because of the individual’s sex. Sexual harassment also consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation, which interfere with the recipient’s job performance. Sexual harassment also occurs when a person in authority tries to trade job benefits for sexual favors. This can include hiring, promotion, continued employment or any other terms, conditions or privileges of employment. This is also called “quid pro quo” harassment.

Any employee who feels harassed should report it so that any violation of this policy can be corrected promptly. Any harassing conduct, even a single incident, can be addressed under this policy.

Examples of sexual harassment:

The following describe some of the types of acts that may be unlawful sexual harassment and that are strictly prohibited (note however, that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list):

  •  Physical acts of a sexual nature, such as:
    • Touching, pinching, patting, kissing, hugging, grabbing, brushing against another employee’s body or poking another employee’s body;
    • Rape, sexual battery, molestation or attempts to commit these assaults.
  • Unwanted sexual advances or propositions, such as:
    • Requests for sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats concerning the target’s job performance evaluation, a promotion or other job benefits or detriments;
    • Subtle or obvious pressure for unwelcome sexual activities.
  • Sexually oriented gestures, noises, remarks or jokes, or comments about a person’s sexuality or sexual experience, which create a hostile work environment.
  • Sex stereotyping occurs when conduct or personality traits are considered inappropriate simply because they may not conform to other people’s ideas or perceptions about how individuals of a particular sex should look or act.
  • Sexual or discriminatory displays or publications anywhere in the workplace, such as:
    • Displaying pictures, posters, calendars, graffiti, objects, promotional material, reading materials or other materials that are sexually demeaning or pornographic. This includes such sexual displays on workplace computers or cell phones and sharing such displays while in the workplace.
  • Hostile actions taken against an individual because of that individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and the status of being transgender, such as:
    • Interfering with, destroying or damaging a person’s workstation, tools or equipment, or otherwise interfering with the individual’s ability to perform the job;
    • Sabotaging an individual’s work;
    • Bullying, yelling, name-calling.

Who can be a target:

Sexual harassment can occur between any individuals, regardless of their sex or gender. This policy and the law protects employees, faculty, paid or unpaid interns, and nonemployees, including independent contractors, and those employed by companies contracting to provide services in the workplace. Harassers can be a superior, a subordinate, a coworker or anyone in the workplace including an independent contractor, contract worker, vendor, client, student, customer or visitor.

Where can sexual harassment occur?

Unlawful sexual harassment is not limited to the physical workplace itself. It can occur while employees are traveling for business or at employer-sponsored events or parties. Calls, texts, emails, and social media usage by employees can constitute unlawful workplace harassment, even if they occur away from the workplace premises, on personal devices or during non-work hours.

IV. Procedure for Reporting Sexual Harassment

Preventing sexual harassment is everyone’s responsibility. The College cannot prevent or remedy sexual harassment unless it knows about it. If any employee believes that the actions or words of a supervisor/manager, fellow employee, student, customer, vendor or other individual in the workplace constitutes illegal sexual harassment, the employee has a responsibility to promptly report that behavior to human resources or other appropriate management. Prompt reporting enables the College to stop the harassment before it becomes severe or pervasive. Anyone who witnesses or becomes aware of potential instances of sexual harassment should report such behavior immediately.

Any individual who believes they have been the victim of or has witnessed any form of sexual harassment, shall promptly give notice of their claim to one or all of the following:

  • Vice President for Human Resources
  • Title IX Officer
  • General Counsel

Reports of sexual harassment may be made verbally or in writing using the Sexual Harassment Complaint Reporting Form Employees may also file a complaint through the College’s Concerns site (Ethicspoint) or discuss it with their department management if preferred. All supervisors and managers are required to report all formal and informal complaints immediately to the Vice President for Human Resources, Title IX Officer or General Counsel even when the complaining employee asks to keep the complaint confidential, or indicates that they do not wish to file a formal complaint.

All supervisors and managers shall act promptly and appropriately to prevent (1) sexual harassment in the workplace, and (2) retaliation against those who complain of sexual harassment, or those who participate honestly and in good faith in either an investigation of a complaint or in opposition to illegal sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to being subject to discipline if they engaged in sexually harassing conduct themselves, supervisors and managers will be subject to discipline for failing to report suspected sexual harassment or otherwise knowingly allowing sexual harassment to continue. Supervisors and managers will also be subject to discipline for engaging in any retaliation.

An individual who believes they have been the victim of any form of discrimination, including harassment, also has the option of consulting with an attorney and/or filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as pursuing any other remedies permitted by law.

As a general matter, the time frame for filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights is one year from the date of the alleged act of unlawful discrimination, including harassment. In New York, a complaint with the EEOC must be filed  within 300 days from the date of the unlawful discrimination, including harassment. The employee must note that these time limits do NOT run from the date that the complaint made to the College is resolved, but from the date the act of sexual harassment is alleged to have occurred. Please note that this is not legal advice. Individual employees are responsible for confirming the time frames for filing a complaint with these administrative agencies by contacting the agencies themselves and/or by contacting their personal counsel.

V. Complaint and Investigation of Sexual Harassment

All complaints or information about sexual harassment will be investigated, whether that information was reported in verbal or written form. Investigations will be conducted in a timely manner and will be confidential to the extent possible. The complaining party will be given notice, in a timely fashion, of the outcome of the investigation of any formal or informal complaint.

An investigation of any complaint, information or knowledge of suspected sexual harassment will be prompt and thorough, commenced immediately and completed as soon as possible. All persons involved, including complainants, witnesses and alleged harassers will be accorded due process, as outlined below, to protect their rights to a fair and impartial investigation. Any employee may be required to cooperate as needed in an investigation of suspected sexual harassment. The College will not tolerate retaliation against employees who file complaints in good faith, support another’s complaint or participate in an investigation regarding a violation of this policy. While the investigative process will vary depending on the particulars of each individual situation, the following general steps and guidelines will be applied:

  • Upon receipt of the complaint, an investigator(s) will be assigned based on the nature of the complaint and their ability to be impartial in the conduct of the investigation.
  • The investigator will conduct an immediate review of the allegations and take any interim actions (e.g. instructing the alleged harasser to refrain from communications with the complainant, addressing any immediate workplace environment issues) as appropriate.
  • Investigator begins documenting the investigation, including the gathering of pertinent documents, emails and/or phone records relevant to the investigation.
  • Begin interviewing all relevant parties, including:
    • Complainant
    • Witnesses
    • Alleged harasser
    • Others with relevant information regarding the matter
  • Investigator ensures a complete documentation file that includes:
    • All emails and other relevant written documents
    • All interview notes
    • A list of names of those interviewed and timeline of events
    • The basis for the decision and final resolution of the complaint, together with any appropriate corrective actions
  • Reach out to alleged harasser with explanation of decision and any counseling or corrective action.
  • Reach out to complainant with description of outcome and notice of additional options to appeal the decision and/or file a complaint or charge externally.

Note: Corrective or disciplinary action will be taken against any employee found to have engaged in sexual harassment. Such action may include counseling and/or appropriate disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.

VI. Anti-Retaliation Policy

The College will not take any action in retaliation against any employee who, in good faith and with a genuine belief that they have been sexually harassed, brings or voices a complaint pursuant to this policy. In addition, the College will not tolerate any retaliatory acts by other individuals.

Retaliation is a serious violation of College policy and the law, and should be reported immediately. Any persons found to have retaliated against an employee because such employee (1) in good faith and with a genuine belief that they have been subjected to illegal sexual harassment, made an honest complaint about such conduct, (2) participated honestly and in good faith in any investigation into a sexual harassment complaint, and/or (3) in good faith opposed acts of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace, will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

Individuals who knowingly bring false charges of discrimination, including harassment, against another employee or other individual shall be subject to disciplinary action.

VII. Conclusion

Excelsior College has developed this policy and procedure to ensure that all its employees work in an environment free from sexual harassment of any kind. Any questions regarding this policy and procedure should be brought to the attention of Excelsior’s Vice President of Human Resources.

VIII. Cross-Reference to Related Policies

  • Sexual Misconduct Policy
  • Anti-Discrimination/Harassment Policy