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Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment Policy

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY and DISCRIMINATORY HARASSMENT POLICY
November 8, 2011
(Replaces policy dated January 7, 2010)

See also UAB’s “Policy Concerning Consensual Romantic Relationships”.

Policy Statement

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hereby reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity in education and employment.

Equal Employment Opportunity

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is expressly committed to maintaining and promoting nondiscrimination in all aspects of recruitment and employment of individuals at all levels throughout UAB.  In accordance with  applicable law, UAB prohibits, and will not tolerate, discrimination in any personnel actions, UAB programs, and UAB facilities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex,  national origin, disability unrelated to job performance, veteran status, or genetic or family medical history.  In addition, UAB prohibits, and will not tolerate, discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  UAB also complies with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act which prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older. UAB will not tolerate any conduct by an administrator, supervisor, faculty, or staff member which constitutes any form of prohibited discrimination.  All personnel actions, programs, and facilities are administered in accordance with UAB’s equal opportunity commitment and affirmative action plan.

UAB will state its position as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer in all solicitations and advertisements for employment vacancies placed by, or on behalf of, UAB.  UAB will broadly publish and circulate its policy of equal employment opportunity by including a statement in all media communication and printed matter for employment purposes.  Further, UAB will consider, through appropriate established procedures, complaints of any individual who has reason to believe that he or she has been affected by prohibited discrimination.  See also the "Complaints" section below.

Equal Education Opportunity

As an institution of higher education and in the spirit of its policies of equal employment opportunity, UAB hereby reaffirms its policy of equal educational opportunity.  UAB prohibits, and will not tolerate, discrimination in admission, educational programs, and other student matters on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, disability unrelated to program performance, veteran status, or genetic or family medical history.  Complaints by any applicant or student who has reason to think he or she has been affected by discrimination will be considered through appropriate established procedures.  See also the "Complaints" section below.

This policy must be included in all student handbooks and catalogs. The following summary statement may be printed in other UAB publications:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham prohibits discrimination in admission, educational programs, and other student matters on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, disability unrelated to program performance, veteran status or genetic or family medical history.

Discriminatory Harassment Policy

In keeping with its commitment to maintaining an environment that is free of unlawful discrimination and in keeping with its legal obligations, UAB prohibits unlawful harassment (and discouraging conduct that, while not unlawful, could reasonably be considered unwelcome).  Discriminatory harassment of any kind is not appropriate at UAB, whether it is sexual harassment or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, disability unrelated to program performance, veteran status, genetic or family medical history, or any factor that is a prohibited consideration under applicable law.  At the same time, UAB recognizes the centrality of academic freedom and its determination to protect the full and frank discussion of ideas.  Thus, discriminatory harassment does not refer to the use of materials about or discussion of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, disability unrelated to program performance, veteran status, or genetic or family medical history for scholarly purposes appropriate to the academic context, such as class discussions, academic conferences, or meetings. 

A.      Definitions and Description of Prohibited Conduct. 

 

1.       Sexual Harassment

Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: 

-          Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment (or a student’s status) 

-          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

-          Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance (or a student’s academic performance) or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work (or academic) environment.

Under the law, sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments or conduct of a socially acceptable nature. Nor does it refer to the use of materials or discussion related to sex and/or gender for scholarly purposes appropriate to the academic context.  It does refer to non-academic remarks or actions of a sexual nature that are not welcome and are likely to be viewed as personally offensive.  This can include but is not limited to any of the following activities that are unwelcome by the recipient: physical or verbal advances; sexual flirtations; propositions; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; vulgar talk or jokes; degrading graphic materials or verbal comments of a sexual nature about an individual or his or her appearance; the display of sexually suggestive objects outside a scholarly context and purpose; and physical contact of a sexual or particularly personal nature.  Cartoons, pictures, or other graphic materials that create a hostile or offensive working environment may also be considered as harassment.  In addition, no one should imply or threaten that an employee’s, applicant’s, or student’s “cooperation” with unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors (or refusal thereof) will have any effect on the individual’s employment, assignment, compensation, advancement, career development, grades, or any other condition of employment or status as a student.

2.       Discriminatory Harassment of a Non-Sexual Nature

The same principles related to sexual harassment also apply to harassment on the basis of any characteristic that is protected by law.  Thus, UAB’s policy prohibits discriminatory harassment of a non-sexual nature, which includes verbal, physical, or graphic conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability unrelated to job performance, veteran status, genetic or family medical history, or other status protected by applicable law and that  

-          Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, educational, or living environment; or

-          Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or a student’s academic performance.

UAB also adopts these principles with regard to discrimination or discriminatory harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

Prohibited behavior may, for example, include conduct or material (physical, oral, written, or graphic, including e-mail messages, text messaging or use of social media posted or circulated in the community) involving epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts, that serves no scholarly purpose appropriate to the academic context and gratuitously denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, national origin, disability unrelated to program performance, veteran status, genetic or family medical history, or any factor protected by applicable law.

3.       Applicability of Policy

In determining whether the conduct at issue is sufficient to constitute discriminatory harassment in violation of this policy, the conduct will be analyzed from the objective standpoint of a “reasonable person” under similar circumstances.  No violation of the policy should be found if the challenged conduct would not create a hostile environment (i.e., substantially affect the work environment of a “reasonable person.”)  See EEOC Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment at www.eeoc.gov.

All harassing conduct prohibited by this policy, whether committed by faculty, staff, administrators, or students, is strictly prohibited and will bring prompt and appropriate disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment or permanent exclusion from UAB.  This policy shall apply to any UAB-sponsored event or program, whether on or off campus, or other situations in which an individual is acting as a member of the UAB community. 

The level of discipline imposed will depend upon the severity and pervasiveness of the conduct, which may be determined by the existence of prior incidents of harassment or discrimination.  Depending upon the severity of the offense, however, a single violation of this policy may be sufficient for termination of employment or expulsion from an academic program.

B.      Prohibition Against Retaliation.

 

Retaliation against an individual who, in good faith, complains about or participates in an investigation of an allegation of discrimination or harassment is prohibited.  Any individual who feels he or she has been retaliated against, or has been threatened with retaliation, should report that allegation immediately to the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity or to the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.

C.      False Accusations.

 

Anyone who knowingly makes a false accusation of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation will be subject to appropriate sanctions.  However, failure to prove a claim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation does not, in and of itself, constitute proof of a knowing false accusation.

Complaints

 

For purposes of this policy, a "complaint" is a formal notification (usually in writing) of the belief that prohibited discrimination has occurred.  Prior to filing a formal complaint, an individual is strongly encouraged to resolve a discrimination allegation through an informal process.

UAB Staff, Faculty, and Students: The procedure for resolving allegations when both the individual making the complaint and the person against whom the complaint is made are employed or enrolled at UAB is described in the sections entitled "Informal Resolution Procedure" and "Submitting a Formal Complaint."

All Others: Situations that involve other individuals (for example, visitors, patients, alumni or former students, applicants for admission or employment, or former employees) who believe they have been discriminated against by someone either employed by, or enrolled at, UAB are to be addressed through the process entitled "Informal Resolution Procedure".

Informal Resolution Procedure

(NOTE: Procedures similar to the following informal process are also included in UAB’s "Problem Resolution Procedure for Nonfaculty Employees" and in the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies.)

Although none of the actions set forth below is required before an individual is eligible to file a formal complaint, UAB encourages use of these mechanisms for informal resolution of the complaint.  This list is not exhaustive.  Actions taken using any of these mechanisms do not necessarily constitute a finding of discrimination.

1.       One-on-one Meeting.  The person making the complaint is encouraged to meet with the person whose behavior is considered discriminatory to discuss the situation and to seek resolution.

2.       Intervention by Supervisor, Manager, or Department/Unit Head.  The person making the complaint is encouraged to contact his/her supervisor to request assistance with resolving the allegation of discrimination.

3.       Facilitated Conversation.  If one-on-one meetings or intervention by departmental officials as indicated above do not resolve the discrimination allegation, the individual making the complaint may contact the appropriate office to request the assistance of a "facilitator."  Facilitated conversations allow the parties involved to discuss the relevant issues in order to seek mutually agreeable solutions.

Individuals may contact the following for assistance with any aspect of the Informal Resolution Procedure:

Employees may contact their assigned HR Consultant or Employee Relations.

Faculty employees may contact the Office of the Provost or Employee Relations.

Students may contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Success.

Disability Support Services is available for consultation in any instances involving disabilities.

The Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity is also available for consultation.

Should the above mechanisms fail to resolve the matter satisfactorily, a complaint may be filed by Staff, Faculty and Students through the formal complaint process.

Potential Disciplinary Action

A violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge. 

Submitting a Formal Complaint

Before filing a formal complaint of alleged discrimination, the relevant parties are encouraged to use one or more of the options outlined above for informal resolution of the allegation.  If one chooses to proceed with a complaint, the complaint may be submitted in writing to one of the following, as appropriate:

Staff and Faculty

HR Consultant/Employee Relations
Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer
Office of the Provost
Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity

Students 

Non-academic Conduct Officer
Disability Support Services (for disability discrimination)
Office of the Vice Provost  for Student and Faculty Success

To the extent possible, all complaints will be handled confidentially and addressed in accordance with UAB policy.  The complaints will be referred to the appropriate area for review and investigations will be conducted in a timely manner.  In instances where staff, faculty and student issues overlap, the areas listed above will confer and/or work collaboratively to resolve the issue. 

All individuals may use the procedures without penalty or fear of retaliation.

Also, any inquiries or complaints concerning the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Executive Order 11246, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; or other legislation and its implementing regulations as they relate to the University of Alabama at Birmingham should be directed to one of the officials listed above.

Overall Implementation

The Office of the Vice President for Financial Affairs and Administration and the Office of the Provost are responsible for submitting revisions to be considered for this policy.