Harrassment Policy and Grievance Procedures
As an expression of our Christian values, Messiah College is committed to creating an atmosphere of dignity and respect free from any harassment, sexual, racial or otherwise. It is also the College’s responsibility to uphold existing laws regarding a learning, living, and working environment free from harassment. Harassment violates federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment in the workplace, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits harassment of students as a form of discrimination that denies or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the College's programs.
As defined in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s regulations, the following conduct constitutes harassment:
- inappropriate conduct that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's academic or work performance and is so severe and pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment;
- and/or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, 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 education, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting an individual.
As such, harassing behavior in any manner or form by anyone in the College community is expressly prohibited. This includes harassment of or by individuals not directly affiliated with the College, e.g. contractors, vendors, visitors. This policy also applies to harassment off-site or after normal business hours in College related settings, including but not limited to business trips, athletic events, conferences, and College related social events.
Furthermore, all employees and all students are responsible for maintaining an environment free of harassment. Individuals who believe that they have been subjected to or witnessed harassment should bring the matter to their supervisors. If an individual believes it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter with a supervisor, the incident should be reported directly to the head of the department or the Office of Human Resources and Compliance. The authorization of, cover-up or participation in any act of harassment of any kind is strictly forbidden. Failure to abide by this policy shall be cause for disciplinary action which may include termination of employment.
Retaliation against an individual who complains of harassment under this policy is strictly prohibited. There will be no adverse action against any individual for reporting what he/she believes is an incident of harassment, or for participating in or cooperating with an investigation of an alleged incident. The College’s commitment to address complaints related to harassment should not be viewed as license for individuals to engage in unfounded, frivolous or vindictive actions that are not made in “good faith.” Such behavior is a violation of the intent of this policy.
Forms of Harassment. Harassment generally takes one of two forms: "quid pro quo" harassment, in which the harasser makes sexual favors or tolerance of unwelcome behavior a condition of the victim’s success in some way; or "hostile environment" harassment, in which the overtly sexual nature or derogatory nature (based on such things as one's race, religion, disability, etc.) of conversations, pictures, humor and/or activities taking place in an academic or work environment makes it difficult for students and employees to concentrate on their work/studies. Harassment often makes the victim feel devalued, uncomfortable, unwelcome, intimidated, or afraid to speak or choose freely. Behavior that may constitute either "quid pro quo" or "hostile environment" harassment include (but are not limited to) the following:
- pressure for sexual activity
- practices, policies and actions which disadvantage an individual or group on the basis of characteristics such as race, disability, etc.
- unnecessary brushes or touches
- offensive graffiti
- display of offensive, demeaning images
- use of insults, slurs or language meant to stigmatize another
- using insulting or “fighting” words or non-verbal symbols. In the context of harassment, insulting or “fighting” words or non-verbal symbols are those “which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace,” and which are commonly understood to convey direct and visceral hatred or contempt for human beings on the basis of their personal characteristics.
- physical aggression or intimidation, including subtle contact such as pinching and patting
- sexual innuendos or persistent use of sexually suggestive or racially-charged language that another person finds offensive, demeaning, or otherwise inappropriate
- verbal harassment disguised as humor (e.g., crude or insensitive jokes)
- obscene gestures
- sexist or suggestive remarks about a person's clothing, body, or sexual activities
- conditioning an educational or employment decision or benefit on submission to sexual conduct or tolerance of racially/ethnically motivated discrimination
Unwanted, offensive and/or culturally insensitive conduct, language, or images do not have to be directed at a specific individual in order to create an atmosphere that is intimidating or offensive to an individual. It is important to note that harassment may take place in an academic, residential or work setting.
Intent and Effect. Harassment is unwelcome behavior that is either intended to harass or has the effect of harassing by abusing the dignity of an individual or creating an intimidating, offensive, or coercive environment. Behavior that was not intended to be harassing can be perceived as harassing.
Power. Harassment most often occurs between people of unequal power: when such a power differential exists (e.g., such as a physically larger person over a smaller one, a supervisor over a subordinate employee, a faculty member over a student), the victim is not in a position to freely object, resist, or give fully free consent. However, harassment can also occur where no formal power differential exists, if the behavior is unwanted by, or offensive to, the victim
Educational Activities. In order to cultivate a creative learning environment, Messiah College encourages free inquiry and expression within the bounds of our Christian commitments. Members of the community have the right to hold and defend a variety of viewpoints within an educational setting. For educational purposes required readings(s), educational activities (videos, projects, discussions, etc.), music, drama or art may include historical information that portrays groups or individuals in a pejorative fashion. Educators carry responsibility for directing these activities with care and sensitivity.
Same-Sex Harassment. Both males and females are protected by law from sexual harassment. Moreover, the law prohibits sexual harassment regardless of the sex of the harasser; i.e., even if the harasser and the person harassed are members of the same sex.
In foundational documents that outline the College’s mission, college-wide educational objectives, foundational values, and strategic plan, the College has affirmed that reconciliation across lines of racial and cultural division as well as behavior respectful of gender is central to our identity as a Christian institution. We seek to create a welcoming community which is characterized by the Biblical vision for justice, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and shalom. Therefore, Messiah College deplores all incidents of harassment, intimidation and discrimination. Any act of harassment, intimidation or discrimination, whether it be committed intentionally or unintentionally, by employees of the College or students, is contrary to the ideals of Christian ethics, Christian community, and our educational mission.
This means that the College will respond promptly and firmly to reported incidents in ways that are educational and redemptive and that encourage both personal responsibility and reconciliation within the community.
Once made aware of a grievance, Messiah College is committed to commence an appropriate investigation of the allegations. As such, a grievance procedure has been established for the benefit and use of all.
Informal Resolution Process
Since many complaints and disputes can be settled in conversation between the people involved, employees are encouraged to begin the resolution process by speaking with their immediate supervisors. Supervisors are expected to facilitate an earnest effort to resolve these issues as promptly as possible.
If an individual considers it to be more appropriate, a conversation may be scheduled with the department head, the division Vice President, the Provost or with a representative from Human Resources instead of the supervisor.
If a supervisor or manager becomes aware that harassment is occurring, either from personal observation or as a result of an individual coming forward, the supervisor or manager needs to respond immediately and contact the Office of Human Resources for guidance in managing the situation.
The Office of Human Resources can assist in guiding the process in several ways:
- gather the input and support of appropriate College resources related to the situation (such as the Special Assistant to the President and Provost for Diversity Affairs, the Director of Disability Services, etc.);
- recommend appropriate options for addressing the matter ;
- assist in identifying problematic behavior;
- facilitate conversations;
- and, monitor agreed upon resolution process.
This process typically leads to an informal resolution (such as a meeting to make the offending party aware of the impact of his/her actions and seek an appropriate resolution) and notes related to the situation and the resolution are maintained in Human Resources.
Formal Resolution Process - Second Step for Unresolved Issues or First Step for Egregious Issues
If the problem is not resolved by the process above or if a situation is egregious, an individual who feels harassed or retaliated against may initiate the formal complaint process by filing a complaint with Human Resources and providing sufficient details so as to allow the Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance to determine if the harassment policies may have been violated.
- The complainant needs to provide a grievance statement, background information, and the requested resolution.
- The investigation may include interviewing individuals other than the complainant and the respondent. Discretion in how information is handled is paramount throughout the process. Every reasonable effort will be made to protect the privacy of all parties. However, strict confidentiality cannot be guaranteed due to the necessity for investigation and fact-finding. Beyond that, any individual who wrongfully discusses or discloses confidential information will be subject to disciplinary action.
- Should any individual refuse or fail to cooperate fully with an investigation, he or she may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include suspension or termination of employment.
- The Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance is responsible for reviewing the situation and will partner with specific resources (such as the Special Assistant to the President and Provost for Diversity Affairs, the Director of Disability Services, etc.)in determining if an investigation is warranted.
- If warranted, Human Resources is responsible for the following:
- establishing an appropriate timeline for processing the grievance
- reviewing the anticipated schedule and interview agenda with the resource representative(s)
- organizing and implementing an appropriate investigation
Please note: Those who conduct the investigation should be without a conflict of interest and anyone with a conflict of interest will be removed from the investigation.
- meeting with both parties, including providing the respondent (the person(s) charged) with a copy of the complaint
- interviewing persons believed to have relevant information
- reviewing findings with the appropriate VP/Provost and resource representative
- rendering a written decision and resolution recommendation
- closing and retaining the investigation file
- During this process, Human Resources will advise both the complainant and the respondent that they may request to have a colleague present for support. No party or participant in the grievance process shall be accompanied by legal counsel at any meeting held for the purpose of resolving the grievance. The final written decision by the Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance will reflect either a determination that the allegations were unwarranted or that the allegations have merit thereby requiring resolution. In such situations, the written decision will include the terms of the prescribed resolution including any disciplinary action deemed appropriate. The appropriate action will depend on the following factors: (i) the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the conduct; (ii) prior complaints made by the complainant; (iii) prior complaints made against the respondent; and (iv) the quality of the evidence (first hand knowledge, credible corroboration etc.).
- If the investigation is inconclusive or it is determined that there has been no harassment in violation of this policy, but some potentially problematic conduct is revealed, preventative action may be taken. Copies of the decision will be shared with both parties as well as both parties’ supervisors and the appropriate Vice President or School Dean.
- If either the complainant or the respondent is not satisfied with the decision and wishes to pursue the matter further, he/she may prepare a written summary of the concerns and request that the Grievance Review Board review the matter. This request should be made through the Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance who will convene a special session of the Grievance Review Board. The Grievance Review Board will be appointed by the President. Typically seven (7) members will serve at a hearing. Membership includes the following:
- Two members of the COE (only one required to serve at any given session)
- Two members of the staff (only one required to serve at any given session)
- One member of the President’s Cabinet
- The Vice President of Human Resources and Compliance as an advisor, but not a voting member
- and at least one additional College official as deemed appropriate for the situation. Specifically, the following additions to the committee would be required:
- For complaints related to race and ethnicity, the Special Assistant to the President and Provost for Diversity Affairs, and two additional members of MICAH as appointed by the chair, would participate.
- For complaints related to gender, a member from the Gender Concerns Committee would participate.
- For complaints related to disability, the Director of Disability Services would participate.
- In the event that the grievance is against a member of the Grievance Board or in any way connected to a member of the Grievance Board (spousal relationship, mentor relationship, etc.), an alternate Board member shall stand in replacement of the Board member with a conflict of interest.
- In the event a complaint involves a student or a student-employee, a student will be named to the Grievance Board.
- The Grievance Board, after a full review of the facts (which may include a review of the written summary of the problem, interviews with the people involved, and further investigation if necessary), will inform the individuals involved of its decision and any recommendations. The decision of the Grievance Board will be final.
- The final written decision by the Grievance Board will reflect either a determination that the allegations were unwarranted or the terms of the prescribed resolution including any disciplinary action deemed appropriate. The appropriate action will depend on the following factors: (i) The severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the conduct; (ii) Prior complaints made by the complainant; (iii) Prior complaints made against the respondent; (iv) The quality of the evidence (first hand knowledge, credible corroboration etc.). If the investigation is inconclusive or it is determined that there has been no harassment or discrimination in violation of this Policy, but some potentially problematic conduct is revealed, preventative action may be taken.
- Copies of the decision will be shared with both parties as well as both parties’ supervisors and the appropriate Vice President or School Dean.
- The Grievance Board will prepare an annual report for College Council outlining the situations addressed, actions taken, and status of any disposition related to the situation.