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Sexual Harassment and Consensual Relationship Policy

Policy Concerning Sexual Harassment

a.         Introduction

It is the goal of the Community Colleges to promote an educational environment and workplace that is free of sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment of students or employees occurring in the classroom or the workplace is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the Community College. Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unlawful and will not be tolerated.  To achieve our goal of providing a workplace free from sexual harassment, the conduct that is described in this policy will not be tolerated and we have provided a procedure by which inappropriate conduct will be dealt with, if encountered by students or employees.

Because the Community Colleges take allegations of sexual harassment seriously, we will respond promptly to complaints of sexual harassment and where it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose such corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action where appropriate.

b.         Definition of Sexual Harassment

In Massachusetts, the legal definition for sexual harassment is this: “sexual harassment” means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and 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 or academic decisions; or,

(b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive learning or working environment.

Under these definitions, direct or implied requests by a supervisor or instructor for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job or academic benefits constitute sexual harassment.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad and in addition to the above examples, other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating workplace or academic environment to male or female workers or students may also constitute sexual harassment.

While it is not possible to list all those additional circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct, which if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances — whether they involve physical touching or not;
  • Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life; comment on an individual’s body, comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons;
  • Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;
  • Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences; and,
  • Discussion of one’s sexual activities.

All employees and students should take special note that, as stated above, retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment, and retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the Community Colleges.

c.         Complaints of Sexual Harassment

If any student or employee believes that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment, the student or employee has the right to file an Affirmative Action Grievance Form (see Appendix A) with the College.

If you would like to file a grievance you may do so by contacting the College’s Affirmative Action Officer.  The Affirmative Action Officer is also available to discuss any concerns you may have and to provide information to you about our policy on sexual harassment and our complaint process.  If the Affirmative Action Officer is the person against whom the grievance is filed, the President shall designate another College official to act as the Affirmative Action Officer.

d.         Sexual Harassment Investigation

When we receive a grievance alleging sexual harassment, the matter is handled pursuant with this Policy’s Grievance Procedure.  The grievance procedure will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances.  If it is determined that a violation of this policy has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the offending conduct, and where it is appropriate we will also impose disciplinary action.  Such disciplinary action shall be consistent with the appropriate collective bargaining agreement, if applicable.  

e.         Disciplinary Action

If it is determined that a violation of this policy has occurred, the College will take such action as is appropriate under the circumstances.  Such action may range from counseling to termination from employment or expulsion from the College.  Such disciplinary action shall be consistent with the appropriate collective bargaining agreement, if applicable.   

f.          State and Federal Remedies

In addition to the above, if you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you may file a formal complaint with the governmental agencies set forth below.  Filing a grievance under this Policy does not prohibit you from filing a complaint with these agencies.

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)

One Congress Street, 10th Floor

Boston, MA 02114                    (617) 565-3200.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”)

Boston Office:            One Ashburton Place, Rm. 601

Boston, MA 02108                   (617) 727-3990

Springfield Office:    424 Dwight Street, Rm. 220

Springfield, MA 01103            (413) 739-2145

The Office For Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”)

Department of Education

John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse, Room 222    

Boston, MA  02109               (617) 223-9662

Policy Concerning Consensual Relationships

A consensual relationship may constitute sexual harassment under this Policy.  When a professional power differential exists between members of the College and a romantic or sexual relationship develops, there is a potential for abuse of that power, even in relationships of apparent mutual consent.  Consenting romantic and/or sexual relationships where a professional power differential exists, such as that between faculty and student, librarian and student, administrator and student, classified staff member and student, or supervisor and employee, are considered unprofessional.  Because such relationships have the potential to interfere with or impair required professional responsibilities and relationships, they are looked upon with disfavor and are strongly discouraged.  An employee in such a relationship should remove himself or herself from decisions affecting the other person in the relationship. Decisions affecting the other person include grading, evaluating, supervising, or otherwise influencing that person’s education, employment, or participation in any other College activity.

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