Revised 11/27/2012

INTRODUCTION

These guidelines describe MIT’s system for handling concerns or complaints about harassment for all members of the MIT community. ¹

As stated in MIT’s policies, harassment of any kind is not acceptable behavior at MIT. Some forms of harassment may also violate federal or state law, or MIT policies on conflict of interest and nondiscrimination. (Links to MIT’s harassment policy and other relevant policies as well as excerpts from relevant laws are found later in this document)

Everyone at MIT is expected to conform to MIT rules and policies. Any concern about harassment should be addressed and resolved as promptly as possible. Ignoring behavior is not an effective way of changing that behavior. Supervisors have a particular responsibility to be aware of harassment and to take action to stop it when it may occur.

MIT recognizes that all people who have a harassment complaint – including students, staff, faculty, and post docs – are entitled to fair grievance procedures. The Institute provides individuals with several options for addressing a harassment concern so that they can choose one that is most suitable for them. Some options are more formal in nature, while others rely on less formal, problem-solving approaches. These guidelines describe those various options.

These guidelines cover the following topics: initial response, options for addressing the problem, confidentiality, bringing someone with you, following up, complaints made in bad faith, and retaliation. It also contains a listing of MIT resources – both people to contact and policies – as well as some resources outside MIT. The guidelines include a section on examples of possibly harassing behavior, and conclude with excerpts from laws relevant to harassment.

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INITIAL RESPONSE

Talk about it

You may want to talk to someone not connected to the situation about the circumstances and your feelings. Within the Institute, you can talk through your concerns with people listed in the section MIT resources.

Write about it

Often, writing can be a helpful tool to clarify relevant information and organize your thoughts. Writing your account of the incident, how you feel about it, and what you think should happen next can also help you decide how you want to address the situation.

To begin, just write down whatever comes to mind about what happened and then separate these notes into three sections:

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OPTIONS FOR ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

There are many ways to address the problem. The best option for you may depend on the seriousness of the offense, the type of resolution you prefer, and the behavior itself. You can choose an informal problem solving approach or ask for a formal review and decision. Many issues can be resolved in an informal manner and MIT’s complaint resolution policies encourage informal complaint resolution. Speaking with someone in an office listed under MIT resources can help you make the decision about which option to pursue.

Informal options

Anonymous reporting

The direct approach

Third-party facilitation

Mediation

Generic approaches

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Formal complaint

To pursue a formal complaint, you must file a request for a Formal Review. For employees, the written request must be made to a human resources officer (or, for Lincoln Laboratory, a human resources professional at the Lab); for students, this should be submitted to the Office of Student Citizenship. If the complaint involves a possibly criminal matter, you can also bring the complaint to the MIT Police.

For employees, the complaint will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether an informal attempt at resolution might be successful and whether there is sufficient evidence in the complaint that a policy was violated or misapplied. In many cases, complaints can be quickly reviewed and resolved through informal methods.

Investigations are done by an impartial investigator, giving notice to the person who allegedly offended and providing a reasonable opportunity for that person to respond to the major elements of the complaint and information presented. An investigation and decision on a complaint can lead to serious disciplinary action, which for employees may include termination.

If your formal complaint is against an undergraduate or graduate student, see the procedures outlined at the Office of Student Citizenship: http://studentlife.mit.edu/citizenship.

The conclusions in an investigation report of a policy violation (or no violation) are generally final and can only be appealed for specific reasons and within specified timeframes. For employees, see Policies & Procedures Section 9.6.3.2 on Appeal.

MIT may choose to investigate any complaint, even if it is not in writing or signed, and if the alleged conduct is serious or egregious, MIT will normally decide to conduct a formal investigation. See Policies & Procedures Section 9.6.3 for more details on the process and timelines for formal reviews for complaints involving employees.

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RELATED PRACTICES AND POLICIES

Confidentiality

All participants in the informal and formal review process are expected to maintain confidentiality to protect the privacy of all involved, to the extent possible and as permitted by law. Participants should keep in mind the effect that allegations can have on reputations, even if the allegations are not sustained by the investigation. Thus, only those people with a need to know should be informed of a complaint. In general, the more formal the complaint, the less likely complete confidentiality can be maintained.

If you are especially concerned about privacy and confidentiality, the more informal options should be considered. The Ombuds office and Mediation@MIT are particularly appropriate as resources.

Bringing someone with you

In pursuing any internal option, both parties in a dispute can be accompanied by a member of the MIT community to a meeting about the complaint. These individuals may not be family members, subordinates, or attorneys, though of course, parties may consult with an attorney or other adviser on their own before or after any meeting at MIT. The role of the MIT community member is to provide support and guidance, not to be a substitute for the party, who is the primary participant.

Advisors to students are not permitted to speak during any disciplinary proceeding. See link below to Office of Student Citizenship for more information on this.

Following up

It is important for you to follow up with the person addressing your concern. For example, confirm that the matter is resolved. Or, if the complaint is resolved but the offense recurs, or you think that you are being retaliated against, immediately report this to the person who was addressing your concern or to a supervisor.

False accusations or testimony

A false or unfounded complaint determined by the Institute to have been made in bad faith and dishonesty in the context of an inquiry or investigation are serious offenses. However, simply not prevailing in a complaint does not mean that a complaint is unfounded. Such offenses may be investigated and may lead to disciplinary action, which may include termination of employment or other affiliation with MIT. Students may be subject to discipline for filing a false or unfounded complaint.

No retaliation

No one shall be retaliated against for participating in the Institute’s Complaint Resolution procedure in good faith as a complainant, a witness, an investigator or in any other capacity. For some individuals, retaliation may include a significant action that adversely affects that person’s academic status. For employees, retaliation is typically a significant adverse employment action taken against an employee because the employee participated in the complaint resolution process. For students, a charge of retaliation may lead to referral to the Committee on Discipline and could lead to possible expulsion from the Institute. Retaliation is a serious offense. A complaint of retaliation may be investigated and may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or otherwise terminating the individual’s relationship with the Institute. If any individual has concerns about retaliation, he or she should contact a human resources officer.

It is also the Institute's policy to recognize and respect the rights of any individual against whom a complaint has been brought.

If any employee or student has concerns about retaliation, he or she should contact one of the appropriate MIT resources listed below.

See also Policies & Procedures Section 9.6.5, Procedures Common to Complaints by or against Employees.

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MIT RESOURCES

People to contact

There are several individuals and offices at MIT available to advise and assist anyone in dealing with harassment. This assistance is available to a party to a dispute, to supervisors or other people who receive complaints, and to colleagues and bystanders of those involved in a dispute. Some of these resources may conduct investigations and others may advise on options. MIT urges you to consider using one of the resources listed below. Visit their websites and see which resource might be most helpful. If you have particular concerns about confidentiality and privacy, you should raise those concerns during your initial contact.


There are also a number of state and federal agencies that provide assistance to individuals who believe that they have been harassed or discriminated against. Some of these are listed below.

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Policies

MIT’s policies on harassment and other standards of behavior are located at:

Links to specific policies that may be relevant:

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RESOURCES OUTSIDE MIT

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
475 Government Center
Boston, MA 02203
Tel: 800-669-4000
http://www.eeoc.gov/

Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Enforcement Office
Office for Civil Rights/Boston
US Department of Education, 8th Floor
5 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109
Tel: 617-289-0111
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
1 Ashburton Place, 6th Floor, Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
Tel: 617-994-6000
http://www.mass.gov/mcad/

Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance
One Ashburton Place, Suite 1101
Boston, MA 02108
Tel: 617-727-5200
http://www.mass.gov/mova/

Third District Court Victim Assistance
4040 Mystic Valley Parkway
Medford, MA 02155
Tel: 781-306-2710

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EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLY HARASSING BEHAVIOR

Behaviors that might violate MIT’s policy on harassment

The following are examples of behaviors that might be found to be harassment in violation of MIT’s policies:

Behaviors that most likely do not violate MIT’s policy on harassment

The following are examples of behaviors that most likely are not harassment:

Everyday administrative action

Performance evaluation

Conflicts of interest

Social situations

Bringing and investigating harassment complaints

Behaviors that may be inappropriate whether or not they violate MIT’s policy on harassment

There is a very wide range of ambiguous behavior that might offend some people but not necessarily others. Examples might include: a second polite request for a date from a peer; comments on clothing; compliments about improved appearance; non-destructive practical jokes; or hacking that most people of the same gender or race find reasonable.

There is a whole class of behavior that might be offensive that relates to the matter of free speech: a classroom discussion of views that could be considered racist, posters seen as sexist, and the like.

In such cases, whether or not the behavior is formally harassment in violation of MIT policy, the offending person might stop the behavior if asked.

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OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Standards for supervisors

All supervisors, including faculty, have a responsibility to avoid potentially unacceptable behavior, such as telling off-color stories, making inappropriate personal remarks, or losing one’s temper, that might intimidate or offend their peers and supervisees. Supervisors have a particular responsibility to be aware of harassment and to take action to stop it when it occurs. The actions of supervisors are often perceived as representing not just their own views of what constitutes acceptable behavior, but what the Institute considers acceptable behavior as well. Both the Institute and its supervisors can be held accountable for unacceptable behavior. See Policies & Procedures Section 7.3.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is essential to the mission of a university. So is freedom from unreasonable and disruptive offense. Members of the MIT community are encouraged to avoid putting these essential elements of our university to a balancing test.

People who are offended by matters of speech or expression should consider speaking up promptly and in a civil fashion, and should be able to ask others to help them to express concern in a professional manner. People who learn they have offended others by their manner of expression should consider immediately stopping the offense and apologizing.

With respect to materials posted on bulletin boards, it is not appropriate to remove or deface signed posters, for example, announcements of social events in a certain religious community or the gay community, even if some people find such material offensive. If you are offended by a poster signed by a person or group in the MIT community, it is appropriate to convey your sense of offense to those who created the poster.

It is usually easier to deal with issues of free expression and harassment if you think in terms of interests rather than rights. It may be “legal” to do many things that are not in your interests or in the interests of others in a diverse community. Most people intuitively recognize that there may be some difference between their rights and their interests. For example, most people do not insist on offending others once they have learned that their behavior is offensive, even in circumstances where they may have, or think that they have, a legal right to do so. Thus, anyone dealing with harassment concerns may find it useful to think about the interests on all sides as well as the rights.

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EXCERPTS FROM LAWS RELEVANT TO HARASSMENT

FEDERAL LAWS

 

 

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C §§ 2000d - 2000d-7

 

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Investigative Guidance on “Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students at Educational Institutions,” 59 Fed. Reg. 11448 (March 10, 1994)

 

OCR will investigate whenever a compliance review, report, complaint, or any other information indicates a possible failure to comply with Title VI and the Department of Education’s implementing regulations. The Department has interpreted Title VI as prohibiting racial harassment.

The existence of racial incidents and harassment on the basis of race, color, or national origin against students is disturbing and of major concern to the Department. Racial harassment denies students the right to an education free of discrimination.

Under Title VI and its implementing regulations, no individual may be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination on the ground of race, color or national origin under any program or activity that receives Federal funds. Racially based conduct that has such an effect and that consists of different treatment of students on the basis of race by recipients’ agents or employees, acting within the scope of their official duties, violates Title VI. In addition, the existence of a racially hostile environment that is created, encouraged, accepted, tolerated or left uncorrected by a recipient also constitutes different treatment on the basis of race in violation of Title VI.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e - 2000e-17

 

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer:

1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

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Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

 

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer:

1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age; or

2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's age.

Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§12101-12213

 

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to … the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees . . . and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Definition of “Sexual Harassment” from EEOC Guidelines on Sexual Harassment, 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11

 

Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Title VII. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment 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 effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 - 1688

 

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Subject to certain exceptions, Title IX states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

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MASSACHUSETTS STATE LAWS

 

 

Discrimination under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act, G.L. c. 151B, § 4

 

In Massachusetts it is unlawful for an employer, by himself or his agent, because of the race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, genetic information, or ancestry of any individual to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification.

In addition, it is unlawful for an employer to impose upon an individual as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment any terms or conditions, compliance with which would require such individual to violate, or forego the practice of, his creed or religion as required by that creed or religion including but not limited to the observance of any particular day or days or any portion thereof as a sabbath or holy day and the employer shall make reasonable accommodation to the religious needs of such individual.

Sexual Harassment under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act, G.L. c. 151B, §§ 1, 3A, 4

 

Under Massachusetts law, all employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations shall promote a workplace free of sexual harassment.

It is unlawful for an employer, personally or through its agents, to sexually harass any employee.

“Sexual harassment” means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions;

b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment. Discrimination on the basis of sex shall include, but not be limited to, sexual harassment.

Massachusetts Fair Educational Practices Act, G.L. c. 151C, § 2

 

It is an unfair educational practice for an educational institution to sexually harass students in any program or course of study in any educational institution.

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Massachusetts Equal Rights Act, G.L. c. 93, § 102

 

All persons within Massachusetts, regardless of sex, race, color, creed or national origin, shall have, except as is otherwise provided or permitted by law, the same rights enjoyed by white male citizens, to make and enforce contracts, to inherit, purchase, to lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

Massachusetts Anti-Stalking Act, G.L. c. 265, § 43

 

Under the Massachusetts Anti-Stalking Act, any person who:

1) willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and

2) makes a threat with the intent to place the person in imminent fear of death or bodily injury, shall be guilty of the crime of stalking.

Section 43(b) of the Act imposes mandatory minimum sentences for any person who commits the crime of stalking in violation of a restraining order, vacate order, no-contact order, or injunction. Section 43(c) of the statute imposes mandatory minimum sentences for any person who commits a second or subsequent offense after having already been convicted of the crime of stalking.

Massachusetts Hate Crimes Reporting Act, G.L. c. 22C, § 32

 

A “hate crime” is a criminal act under the laws of Massachusetts in which bigotry and bias was a motivating factor. Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts coupled with overt actions motivated by bigotry and bias directed at a victim due to that victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, handicap, gender, or sexual orientation.


FOOTNOTES

¹ The complaint system described in these guidelines applies to employees who are not in bargaining units at MIT. Complaint procedures for members of bargaining units are found in the relevant union contracts. There are also certain other groups, such as members of the Medical Department who are covered by the Medical Department Bylaws, for whom parts of these guidelines may not apply.

 

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