Policy 704 - Policy against Bias, Discrimination, and Harassment

Policy Number: 704
Responsible Office: HR/Equal Opportunity and Compliance
Effective Date: 7/11/95
Revised: 4/1/01; 6/14/05; 12/15/09; 6/1/15; 10/9/18; 12/3/19

Table of Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Policy
  3. Definitions of Prohibited Conduct
  4. Non-Fraternization
  5. Complaint Procedure
    1. Reporting
    2. Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation
    3. Investigation
    4. Remedial and Disciplinary Action
    5. External Complaints
    6. Employment at Will

I. Scope

All members of the University Community may use this procedure. For the purpose of this policy, the University Community includes, but is not limited to, all faculty, administrators, staff (including student workers), students, alumni, interns, members of the Board of Trustees, and members of University-sponsored advisory committees. Non-community members (e.g., visitors to the University, vendors and service-providers) who are visiting campus, participating in a program or activity, or interacting with University Community members also may be covered by this policy.

II. Policy

St. John’s University is committed to creating a safe, respectful, and inclusive campus community.  To this end, and consistent with the University's mission as a Catholic, Vincentian, metropolitan and global institution of higher education, the University abides by all applicable federal, state and local laws that prohibit discrimination (as defined below) in any educational or employment program, policy, or practice. In accordance with these laws, the University also prohibits retaliation against anyone who has complained about bias, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment, or otherwise exercised rights guaranteed by these laws. All University policies, practices, and procedures are administered in a manner that preserves its rights and identity as a Catholic and Vincentian institution of higher education.

All members of the University Community have an obligation to cooperate in the application of this policy and the investigation of complaints of violations to this policy.  Individuals who observe conduct that may violate this policy are encouraged, but not required, to communicate to the offending person that the conduct is offensive and unwelcome.  Individuals are also encouraged to help defuse any situation where they observe someone behaving in a manner towards others that may violate this policy, either by intervening directly or by alerting a supervisor or the Office of Human Resources to assist.  The University will hold individuals who engage in discrimination or harassment accountable, as well as supervisors who knowingly allow such behavior to continue or who fail to report behavior that they suspect may violate this policy to the Office of Human Resources.

III. Definitions of Prohibited Conduct

Bias Incident: A verbal or physical action committed against or directed toward a person or to a person’s property because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, disability, religion, age, alienage or citizenship status, veteran status, or any other legally protected basis.  Bias incidents may include, but are not limited to, name calling, use of epithets, slurs or degrading language directed toward the targeted person or group, vandalism, symbols and other offenses against property involving graffiti or degrading images, threats or harassment.

Discrimination: This includes employment and educational decisions made on the basis of personal characteristics that are protected by law, including but not limited to race, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, gender or sex (including sexual harassment and sexual violence), gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital or partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, disability, genetic predisposition, caregiver status, pregnancy, sexual and reproductive health decisions, status as a victim of domestic violence/sex offenses/stalking, status in the uniformed services of the United States (including veteran status), arrest or conviction record, credit history, salary history, unemployment status, or any other basis prohibited by law.

Employment decisions can include hiring, job classification, work assignments or status, salary or other compensation, promotion or transfer, discipline, discharge, layoff, leaves of absence, job training, benefits or other terms or conditions affecting one’s employment.

Educational decisions can include actions related to academic standing, grades, participation in programs or activities, athletic opportunities, receipt of financial aid, grants, leaves of absence or other terms or conditions affecting one’s education.

Discriminatory Harassment: Any conduct that creates an unwelcoming or hostile environment for people because of their personal characteristics that are protected by law.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and violates the law. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a 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 academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; 3) conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or professional performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, education, or living environment; 4) such conduct has the purpose or effect, when judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the position of the complaining individual, of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for working, learning, or enjoying other University opportunities, programs and activities. Sexual harassment can occur regardless of the person committing it or the person who is exposed to it.  Harassment on the basis of gender, including transgender status, or on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation, is also prohibited sexual harassment.  This definition of sexual harassment will be interpreted and applied consistently with current legal standards, as well as accepted standards of mature behavior, professional responsibilities, academic freedom and freedom of expression. 

Examples of Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment: Each member of the University community must exercise his or her own good judgment to avoid engaging in conduct that may be perceived by others as harassment. Permitting employees or students to be harassed by a visitor to campus or while off-campus in the course of conducting University business is also prohibited by this policy. Forms of discriminatory and sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:



VerbalRepeated sexual innuendoes; racial or sexual epithets; derogatory slurs; off-color jokes; propositions; threatening, suggestive or insulting sounds, phone calls

Derogatory posters, cartoons, or drawings; suggestive objects or pictures; graphic commentaries; leering; obscene gestures or exhibitionism; transmission of such offensive material through the mail or using any electronic medium (e.g. text messages, email, a social networking service or the Internet)

PhysicalUnwanted physical contact, including touching, patting, pinching, hugging, brushing against another's body; interference with an individual’s normal physical movements; attempted sexual assault or sexual assault

IV. Non-Fraternization

Relationships between individuals in inherently unequal positions may undermine the real or perceived integrity of the supervision and evaluation process, as well as affect the trust inherent in the educational environment. It is the policy of St. John’s University that respect for the individual in the University community requires that amorous or sexual relationships not be conducted by persons in unequal positions.

The University considers it inappropriate for any member of the faculty, administration, or staff to establish an intimate relationship with a student, subordinate, or colleague upon whose academic or work performance he or she will be required to make professional judgments. In the event that a romantic relationship predates a manager/subordinate reporting relationship or develops among employees who may have an actual or perceived unequal relationship in the organization, it is the obligation of both parties to disclose to the Office of Human Resources the nature of that relationship so that any potential or perceived conflicts of interest can be addressed and the reporting relationship changed to ensure that there is no direct or indirect oversight of work performance.

The University considers it a violation of this policy for any member of the faculty, administration, or staff to offer or request sexual favors, make sexual advances, or engage in sexual conduct, consensual or otherwise, with a person who is:

  • Enrolled in a class taught by the faculty member or administrator
  • Receiving academic advising or mentoring from the faculty member or administrator
  • Working for the faculty member, administrator or staff member
  • Subject to any form of evaluation by the faculty member, administrator or staff member.

Please note that the list above is not exhaustive and other situations of fraternization may also result in a violation of this policy. In all such circumstances, consent may not be considered a defense against a charge of sexual harassment in any proceeding conducted under this policy. The determination of what constitutes sexual harassment depends on the specific facts and the context within which the conduct occurs.

Teaching and research fellows, doctoral and graduate assistants, tutors, interns, and any other students who perform work-related functions for the University are also subject to this policy.

Additionally, any employee who becomes aware of a relationship that is or may be prohibited by this policy should report such relationship to the Office of Human Resources, Equal Opportunity & Compliance.

V. Complaint Procedure

A. Reporting

Any member of the University community who believes they have experienced prohibited bias, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment in employment or in the context of academic pursuits, or any member of the University community who becomes aware of potentially biased, discriminatory, or harassing conduct directed at another member of the University community should promptly report the matter by contacting:

Equal Opportunity and Compliance
Office of Human Resources
University Center, Queens Campus
(718) 990-1865 (press 4)

The above link provides access to a complaint form which can be used to make a report under this Policy.

Any faculty member who is accused of bias, discrimination, discriminatory harassment or sexual harassment that could constitute a violation of this Policy will be advised that they may have a union representative accompany them to any interviews in connection with the subject matter of the complaint, in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

B. Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation

Cases involving bias, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment are particularly sensitive and demand special attention to issues of confidentiality. Dissemination of information relating to the case should be limited to individuals who have a legitimate need to know or who have information. Every effort should be made to protect members of the University Community so that they may use the bias, discrimination, and harassment complaint procedures without fear of reprisal or retaliatory action. Retaliation against anyone who makes a complaint or participates in the complaint process or has engaged in any other protected activity is unlawful and is prohibited by this policy. Prohibited retaliation may include taking adverse action or treatment that leads to a negative impact on an individual’s employment or educational experience, where such action or treatment is motivated by the fact that the individual has participated in the complaint process under this policy or engaged in other protected activity.

C. Investigation

Once a complaint is received, a representative from the Office of Human Resources, Equal Opportunity and Compliance will promptly review the complaint and will commence an investigation.  An investigation may include all or some of the following steps, depending on the determination of the appropriate scope of the investigation for each circumstance, as well as any additional steps determined to be appropriate: Meetings or other communication with the Complainant (the person who made the complaint), the Respondent (the person against whom the complaint was made), and any other appropriate administrators, faculty, staff members and/or students who may have knowledge of the situation, as well as review of documents and materials that may relate to the situation.  Interim remedies, including but not limited to academic or housing accommodations, no contact orders, and safety escorts, may be implemented pending the outcome of an investigation conducted pursuant to this Policy.

If a complaint alleges issues that are both within and outside the scope of this Policy, any investigation of the bias, discrimination, and/or harassment allegations under this Policy would remain separate and independent from any external procedure addressing the issues outside the scope of this Policy.

The outcome of any investigation shall be communicated in writing to the Complainant and the Respondent.  Such outcome shall be final, binding, and non-appealable.

D. Remedial and Disciplinary Action

When the University finds that a violation of this policy has occurred, appropriate and timely remedial and disciplinary action will be taken, up to and including separation from the University.  In taking any disciplinary action, the University will follow applicable University procedures, including those provided in the Student Code of Conduct and the Collective Bargaining Agreement and University Statutes.

In cases where the Respondent is neither a student nor an employee of the University, the University’s ability to take responsive action is extremely limited.  However, the University shall take all appropriate steps within its control to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory campus community.

E. External Complaints

In addition to the internal procedures outlined above, complaints of bias, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, or sexual harassment may be filed with the federal, state, and local agencies listed below:

Individuals who file complaints of discrimination with an administrative agency, or in a court of law, may be entitled to seek legal remedies, including monetary damages, civil penalties and injunctive relief (such as an order directing that certain action be taken or that certain behavior stop).

F. Employment at Will

This complaint procedure is intended to provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee complaints alleging discrimination and harassment. It is not intended to create, and does not create, an employment contract or a guarantee of continued employment for any employee. Therefore, the University is free to discharge at-will employees at any time for any reason, just as an employee may resign at any time for any reason. Furthermore, the University may amend or rescind any of the provisions of this policy and the complaint procedure from time to time in its sole discretion.

St. John's University, New York
Human Resources Policy Manual