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A Guide to Help Prevent, Avoid and Stop Sexual Harassment in the Harvard Medical Area Community
What to do...
If You Think You Are Being Sexually Harassed...
If You Are A Supervisor...
If You Have Authority Over Employees or Students...
If You Are a Peer or Colleague...
If You Observe Behavior That Is Inappropriate...
If the Situation Doesn't Fit the Guidelines...
Where to get help
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is discriminatory, unlawful, and clearly inconsistent with the nature of an academic community. Harvard Medical School regards such behavior as a violation of the standards of conduct required of all persons associated with the institution.
Sexual harassment is..."unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical 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 or academic success; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individuals; and (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 work environment."* Examples of sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances that are physical, such as the "unnecessary" touching of someone's body, or verbal, such as repeated "sexist" jokes or slurs, as well as suggestions for or exchanges of sexual favors for rewards related to school or work which are not desired by the other party. Both men and women can be sexual harassers.
Any staff or faculty member who after investigation is found to have violated this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action by the University, up to and including dismissal.
It is unlawful to retaliate against a staff or faculty member for filing a complaint of sexual harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of such a complaint. Retaliation against a staff or faculty member who, in good faith, reports alleged harassment or who participates in an investigation is a violation of our policy and is subject to appropriate discipline.
* "Guidelines for Establishing Sexual Harassment Prevention and Grievance Procedures," American Medical Association Council on Judicial and Ethical Affairs, American Medical Association, 1989.
What to do...
Any staff or faculty member who believes he or she has been harassed should report the incident promptly. Staff and faculty members are urged to bring any concerns or complaints of sexual harassment to the University's attention through the most comfortable of a variety of routes. People, such as the Ombudsperson, are available to help you even when the concern doesn't appear to fall within the sexual harassment guidelines. It is appropriate to use the suggested resources to explore whether behaviors which seem inappropriate would be considered sexual harassment.
Whether sexual harassment comes from a person in authority, a colleague, or peer, it is always inappropriate. Any gesture or remark of a sexual nature that makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened, intimidated or pressured may be a sign that you are experiencing sexual harassment. Trust your instincts. If you are harassed, do not blame yourself. Do not remain silent. Act quickly; do not delay. You may want to:
- Say No. Tell the person that his or her behavior toward you is making you uncomfortable.
- Tell someone, a friend, a colleague, or your supervisor.
- Request an intervention from a third-party.
- Speak to the Ombudsperson to explore your options or find help by contacting the appropriate office.
- Write the harasser a letter (the Ombuds Office and the Human Resources Department at your location can provide you with an effective format).
- Keep a Record of events, with dates and witnesses.
- Document Your Work and evaluations so that you can attest to the quality of your performance if the accused harasser questions your abilities.
- File a Formal Grievance.
Someone may come to you with a complaint about another person. As a supervisor you can be held legally responsible for sexual harassment incidents involving those who report to you if you knew or should have known about the conduct. The law requires that you must take action; you should seek out help in deciding how to respond.
- Promptly call someone from the sources listed on this page for advice and instructions on how to proceed.
- Do not blame the victim.
- Get the facts. Do not act or judge hastily. Find out if the data support the complaint.
- Document the complaint. Include in your notes who, what, where, and when. Be sure to follow-up.
- Consult with the complainant before taking any actions or speaking with other parties involved in the dispute.
- Take the initiative if you suspect or know someone is being sexually harassed. Immediately request help from appropriate sources. Do not ignore the issue.
- Arrange for an educational program to inform the people for whom you are responsible about sexual harassment and its consequences. Information on available resources is available at the Ombuds Office and Human Resources Department.
- Be a role model so others will know what is acceptable behavior.
Consider your own conduct. You are expected to behave responsibly. If you evaluate the performance of faculty, students and/or staff or influence a person's professional future, be careful not to misuse the power that has been entrusted to you. Employers are legally held responsible for incidents involving managers or supervisors regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of their occurrence.
- "No" means "No." Do not repeat behavior you have been told is not welcome. For example, unwanted persistent requests for dates or repeated remarks or physical overtures of a sexual nature can be illegal under the EEOC guidelines.
- Do not interpret someone's silence as consent.
- Retaliating when someone complains of harassment is unacceptable, unlawful and will not be tolerated.
- Remember, a person of higher status can be held accountable by the institution if a sexual relationship develops that later results in a sexual harassment complaint (as defined by the EEOC) which is substantiated. If such a relationship is consensual, the institution may treat the complaint as an abuse of authority rather than sexual harassment.
- In general, if you treat every person with respect and dignity you are less likely to have something you do or say misunderstood.
Harassers are not just people having authority and power. Some verbal and/or physical actions between peers or colleagues when not asked for, not welcome or not returned may be interpreted as sexual harassment. Also, conduct which is in poor taste or inappropriate, but not illegal under EEOC guidelines, can still be offensive to the recipient. Everyone can benefit from trying to help improve the environment in our community. You can:
- Ask if you think something you do or say is being perceived as unwelcome. If the answer is yes, stop it.
- Be aware that sexual remarks or physical conduct of a sexual nature can make some people uncomfortable even if you wouldn't feel this way yourself. People are different. Learn to respect these differences.
- Do not repeat behavior if you have been told it is not wanted.
- Do not take the risk of discovering that your behavior is, indeed, objectionable to another. If you are in doubt, stop the behavior.
If you witness repeated, unwanted and uninvited conduct by one individual toward another, or if you hear or see someone being propositioned, leered at, touched, questioned about her or his personal life, or repeatedly asked for a date, you may be witnessing sexual harassment. While you are under no legal obligation to do anything, you might:
- Ask the person you think is being harassed how you might be helpful.
- Consult the Ombudsperson or one of the other resources suggested here for advice.
- Tell a person who you feel is being offensive about your own uneasiness with his or her behavior. It is reasonable for you to expect that your school or work environment should be free from an atmosphere that permits or promotes sexual harassment of others.
- MOST PEOPLE JUST WANT OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOR, OF ANY KIND, TO STOP. IF IT IS UNWANTED SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, IT MAY BE ILLEGAL NOT TO STOP.
In some instances, words or actions may seem inappropriate, but you are not sure if they would be considered sexual harassment. It is appropriate to make use of the sources suggested in this brochure to find out. People, such as the Ombudsperson, are available to help you even when the concern doesn't fall within the sexual harassment guidelines.
HMS's Ombuds Office is a safe, private place where all reports of sexual harassment will be considered discreetly and impartially.
Ombuds Melissa Brodrick's confidential line is (617) 432-4040.
Or, you may contact these offices:
Human Resources, (617) 432-2035
Student Affairs, (617) 432-1570
Faculty Affairs, (617) 432-1540
Human Resources, (617) 432-5913
Student Affairs, (617) 432-1443
Dental Education, (617) 432-1447
Human Resources, (617) 432-0979
Student Affairs, (617) 432-1036
Faculty Affairs, (617) 432-1047
Campus Police, (617) 432-1212
Health Services, (617) 432-1370
Harvard Chaplain, (617) 495-5529
Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, (617) 661-8289.
Resources outside the university include:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (617) 565-3200
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, (617) 727-3990.