I5: Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Other Types of Harassment and Discrimination

Responsibility for Maintenance: Human Resources

Date of most recent changes: June 18, 2019 

I. Policy Statement

All employees have a legal right to a workplace free from sexual and other types of harassment and discrimination.  The College prohibits, and will not tolerate, discrimination or harassment on the basis of a person’s protected class including: race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristics or carrier status*, military status (including U.S. Veteran status), domestic violence victim status, marital status, prior criminal conviction that is unrelated to the employee's job, or any other characteristic protected by law. Any employee found to have engaged in any form of discrimination or harassment prohibited by law or by this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination. The College will comply with all applicable equal employment opportunity/non-discrimination laws including but not limited to: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Human Rights Law.

*GINA: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. This act protects Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment.

II. Definitions and examples

Sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and harassment are forms of workplace discrimination and constitute employee misconduct. In accordance with applicable state and federal laws, sexual harassment is generally defined as unwelcome or unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a verbal or physical nature, which is directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex. Harassment based on an individual’s sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender identity and the status of being transgender are also prohibited forms of sexual harassment, and:

  • The submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or is used as a basis for any employment decision affecting the employee;
  • The conduct has a purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, even if the reporting individual is not the intended target of the sexual harassment.

A sexually harassing hostile work environment and a discriminatory environment includes, but is not limited to, words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or physical violence which are of a sexual nature, which are directed at an individual because of that individual’s actual or perceived sex or membership in an otherwise protected class. 

Sexual harassment also occurs when a person in a position of authority tries to trade job benefits for sexual favors.  This type of sexual harassment, known as “quid pro quo” harassment, includes all aspects of the employment process includes terms, conditions or privileges of employment including but not limited to: hiring, promotions, continued employment, entrance in to training programs and salary considerations.

Examples of sexual harassment

The following describes some of the types of acts/behaviors that may be unlawful sexual harassment and are strictly prohibited in the workplace:

  • Physical acts of a sexual nature such as but not limited to:
    • Touching, pinching, patting, kissing, hugging, grabbing, brushing against another employee’s body or poking another employee’s body;
    • Rape, sexual battery, molestation or attempts to commit these assaults.
  • Unwanted sexual advances or propositions, such as, but not limited to:
    • Requests for sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats concerning the target’s job performance evaluation, promotion or other job detriments or benefits;
    • Subtle or obvious pressure for unwelcome sexual activities.
  • Sexual oriented gestures, noises, remarks or jokes, or comments about a person’s sexuality or experience, which creates a hostile work environment.
  • Sex stereotyping, which occurs when conduct or personality traits are considered inappropriate simply because they may not conform to other people’s ideas or perceptions about how individuals of a particular sex should look or act.
  • Sexual or discriminatory displays or publications anywhere in the workplace such as:
    • Displaying pictures, posters, calendars, graffiti, objects, promotional material, reading materials or other materials that are pornographic, sexually or otherwise demeaning to a protected class.
  • Hostile actions taken against an individual because of that individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status or being a member of a protected class such as:
    • Interfering with, destroying or damaging a person’s workstation, tools or equipment, or otherwise interfering with the individual’s ability to perform the job;
    • Sabotaging an individual’s work;
    • Bullying, yelling, name-calling.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment is not limited to the physical workplace.  It can occur while employees are at employer-sponsored events or parties.  It includes calls, texts and social media usage if they occur away from the physical workplace, on personal devices and/or during non-work hours.

Sexual harassment can occur between any individuals regardless of their sex or gender.  New York State law protects employees, paid and unpaid interns, and non-employees including independent contractors and those employed by companies contracted to provide services in the workplace.  Harassers can include supervisors, direct-reports, co-workers or anyone in the workplace including contract workers, independent contractors, vendors, clients, interns (paid or unpaid), volunteers, customers or visitors.

III. Retaliation

Retaliation is an unlawful adverse action taken against an individual who has reported sexual or other types of harassment or discrimination, or that discourages an employee from coming forward to make a report. Adverse action need not be job-related or occur in the workplace to constitute unlawful harassment. An example of this is a threat of physical violence made outside of work hours. Federal laws and the New York State Human Rights Law protect individuals who:

  • Make a report of sexual harassment, either internally or with any anti-discrimination agency;
  • Testify or assist in a proceeding involving sexual harassment under the Human Rights Law or other anti-discrimination law;
  • Identify sexual harassment by making a verbal or informal report to management, or by simply informing a supervisor or manager of harassment;
  • Encourages a co-worker to report harassment. 

Even if the alleged harassment does not rise to the level of a violation of the law, the reporting individual is protected from retaliation if the person had a good faith belief that the practices reported were unlawful.  The retaliation provision is not intended to protect persons making intentionally false charges of harassment. 

IV. Internal Reporting Procedures

Preventing sexual and other types of harassment or discrimination is everyone’s responsibility at Onondaga Community College. When an employee, student, paid or unpaid intern, volunteer, or non-employee feels he or she has been the target of discrimination or harassment, or if an employee witnesses or learns of any discrimination or harassment, the employee must take immediate action and report the discrimination or harassment. Such a report can be made verbally or in writing to any one of the following individuals:

1. Vice President of Human Resources

2. Title IX Coordinator

3.  Assistant Vice President, HR and Labor Relations

4.  The employee’s immediate supervisor or anyone in the supervisory chain of command

Persons in positions of supervisory authority cannot agree to requests for confidentiality of a report but will maintain confidentiality to the extent possible.  After reporting of an incident, complaint or allegation, further investigation will be conducted by the Office of Human Resources. Complaints alleging sex discrimination or harassment will also be overseen by the Title IX Coordinator.

If the alleged harassment or discrimination involves potentially criminal activities such as physical harm, touching, unwanted physical confinement, coerced sex acts, or the complainant feels in imminent danger, Campus Safety and Security or 911 should be contacted.

V.  Internal Investigation of Harassment and Discrimination

All reports or information alleging sexual or other types of harassment or discrimination will be investigated whether in verbal or written form. Investigations will be conducted in a timely manner and will be kept confidential to the extent possible. All persons involved are subject to a fair and impartial investigation. While each investigation is unique, investigations will be done in accordance with the following steps:

  • Upon receipt of the report, Human Resources will conduct an immediate review of the allegations and take any necessary interim actions (e.g. instruct the respondent to refrain from communications with the complainant) as appropriate.  If the report is verbal, encourage the individual to complete the “Harassment and Discrimination Reporting Form” in writing.  Note that verbal reports will still be investigated even if no forms is completed.
  • Investigator(s) will take steps to obtain and preserve any emails, documents or phone records relevant to the investigation.
  • Investigator(s) will interview all parties involved, including any relevant witnesses. 
    Investigator(s) will keep all documentation in a secure and confidential location which contains the following:
    • List of documents reviewed;
    • List of names of those interviewed, along with a summary of their statements;
    • Timeline of events;
    • Basis for the decision and final resolution, together with recommended corrective actions.

Investigator(s) will promptly notify the reporting individual and the individual about whom the report was filed of the final determination and implement corrective actions.

To make a written report at Onondaga Community College, use the “Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Reporting Form”. 

VI.  Supervisor Responsibilities

A supervisor is responsible for providing a work environment that is free from discrimination or harassment. A supervisor must therefore immediately initiate appropriate corrective action in the event the supervisor is a witness to, becomes aware of or suspects, any violations of this policy. When a supervisor receives a written or oral report involving allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment from any College employee, intern, vendor, student or non-college employee, or has reason to believe or suspects that such a situation may exist, the supervisor must immediately contact Human Resources. There are no required forms; however, the Office of Human Resources may request that the manager or supervisor prepare a written report of his/her knowledge and understanding of the circumstances surrounding the incident, report, or allegation. The failure of a supervisor to report allegations of discrimination or harassment, or who engage in such conduct themselves (including retaliation) may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

VII.  Legal Protections and External Remedies

Sexual and other types of harassment and discrimination is not only prohibited by Onondaga Community College, it is also prohibited by state, federal, and where applicable, local law.  Aside from OCC’s internal process for reporting and investigations, employees may choose to pursue legal remedies with the following governmental entities.  While a private attorney is not required to file a report with a governmental agency, individuals may seek the legal advice of an attorney.

As found in New York State Human Rights Law, codified as NY Executive Law, art. 15, §290 et seq., reports of sexual harassment or other types of harassment or discrimination of protected classes may be filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) or State Supreme Court.  Reports may be filed any time within one (1) year of the alleged harassment.  If an individual did not file at DHR, they can sue directly in state court under the HRL, within three (3) years of the alleged sexual harassment.  An individual may not file with DHR if they have already filed a HRL complaint in state court.  An internal report does not extend your time to file with DHR or in court.  The one or three years is counted from the date of the most recent incident of alleged harassment.  You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with DHR, and there is no cost to file with DHR.

If a sexual harassment allegation is founded after a hearing, Division of Human Rights has the power to award relief, which varies but may include requiring your employer to take action to stop the harassment, or redress the damage caused, including paying of monetary damages, attorney’s fees and civil fines.  Contact DHR at 888-392-3644 or visit dhr.ny.gov/complaint for more information about filing a complaint.  The website has a form that can be downloaded, filled out, notarized and mailed to DHR.  The website also contains contact information for DHR’s regional offices across New York State.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (codified as 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq.).  An individual can file a complaint with the EEOC anytime within 300 days from the alleged harassment.  There is no cost to file with the EEOC.  The EEOC will investigate the complaint, and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, at which point the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter permitting the individual to file a complaint in federal court.

The EEOC does not hold hearings or award relief, but may take other action including pursuing cases in federal court on behalf of complaining parties.  Federal courts may award remedies if discrimination is found to have occurred.  An employee alleging discrimination/harassment at work can file a “Charge of Discrimination”.  The EEOC has district, area and field offices where complaints can be filed.  Contact the EEOC by calling 1-800-669-4000 (TTY: 1-800-669-6820), visiting their website at www.eeoc.gov or via email at info@eeoc.gov.  If an individual filed an administrative complaint with DHR, DHR will file the complaint with the EEOC to preserve the right to proceed in federal court.

Individuals may also contact the county, city or town in which they live to find out if there are additional applicable local laws.

VIII.  Training Programs

 In accordance with Title IX, “Responsible Employees” are identified by the Title IX Coordinator. These employees will be periodically trained about their obligations to appropriately report allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment and assault.  Additionally, employees, interns, and volunteers of the College will be trained in accordance with state and federal laws.

IX. Related Documents

X. Contacts

Subject Office Name Title or Position Telephone Number Email/URL
Questions regarding policy Human Resources Vice President of Human Resources (315) 498-2516 b.k.scholl@sunyocc.edu

Approved by OCC Board of Trustees April 3, 2006

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees June 19, 2012

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees June 16, 2015

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees January 26, 2016

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees March 27, 2018

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees June 18, 2019