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Human Resources

Descriptions of Complaints

Types of Complaints

File binders and foldersNote:  These descriptions are intended to provide a general understanding of the complaints an individual may file.  Some of the descriptions are excerpts from the full text of the definitions.  Please refer to the appropriate policies for the full-text of the definitions of the types of complaints.

Bullying:  Bullying is described as abusive conduct under Government Code 12950.1  Abusive conduct means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.  Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.  A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless severe and egregious. 

Discrimination: Refers to the disparate or inequitable treatment of an individual based on or because of that individual’s protected characteristic or status, such as the individual’s race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious creed, sex or gender (including gender identity or expression), marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, military or veteran status, or any other characteristic protected under applicable law, excepting any treatment permitted or required by law.

Harassment (other than sex-based):  Unwelcome conduct or communication, directed toward someone because of the person’s protected characteristic or status, where:

  1. The conduct/communication is severe enough to deny or limit the individual’s participation in or full benefit of employment or academic opportunities at WesternU; or
  2. Conduct/communication is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile, offensive or abusive.

Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (i.e. such as sexual advances, request for sexual favors), when

  1. Quid Pro Quo: Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct, whether explicitly or implicitly suggested, is a factor in an academic or employment decisions or permission to participate in University programs or activities; or
  2. Hostile Work Environment: The conduct, has a purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individuals academic or work performance or creates an intimidating or hostile academic or work environment.  A hostile work environment is created when the conduct is severe and pervasive. A single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe.

Gender Harassment:  Unwelcome conduct of a non-sexual nature (i.e. such as aggression, intimidation or hostility) based on an individual’s actual or perceived sex, including conduct based on gender identity, gender expression and nonconformity to gender stereotypes.

Unwelcome conduct includes, but is not limited to, verbal harassment (e.g., epithets, derogatory comments, name-calling, or slurs), physical harassment (e.g., assault, impeding or blocking movement, pinching, pushing, or any physical interference with normal work or movement), written harassment (e.g. hate mail, notes or texts) and visual forms of harassment (e.g., derogatory posters, cartoons, drawings, symbols, or gestures).

A hostile environment could be created by repeated, unwanted, sexually oriented stares (maintaining eye contact is, of course, not a violation of policy). Sexual or Gender Harassment may be blatant, intentional and involve an overt action or may be subtle, indirect and with a coercive unstated aspect.

Sexual Assault: A form of sexual misconduct that involve the actual attempt or threat of sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an individual  by force or threat of force without affirmative consent or where the individual is incapacitated, such as.

  1. Sexual Contact: This includes the intentional contact, irrespective of gender, with an individual’s breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals; touching with any of these body parts or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner, though not involving contact with, of, or by breasts, groin, mouth or other orifice.
  2. Sexual Intercourse: This is the sexual penetration of the vagina or anus, no matter how slight and irrespective of gender, by any body part or foreign object or oral copulation involving mouth to genital contact.

    Examples of sexual assault include sexual battery, and rape.

  3. Sexual Exploitation: This occurs when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for their own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage another other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other sexual misconduct criterion. Examples include, but are not limited to, (1) Prostitution, (2) non-consensual video or audio-recording of sexual activity, (3) going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as permitting others to observe you having consensual sex with someone who is unaware of the observation), or (4) public indecency (such as exposing genitals to others without consent).

Domestic Violence is a form of Sexual Violence and is abuse committed against someone who is a current or former spouse; current or former cohabitant; someone with whom the abuser has a child; someone with whom the abuser has or had a dating or engagement relationship; or a person similarly situated under California domestic or family violence law. Cohabitant means two unrelated persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of relationship. Factors that may determine whether persons are cohabiting include, but are not limited to, (1) sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same living quarters, (2) sharing of income or expenses, (3) joint use or ownership of property, (4) whether the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife, (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of the relationship.

Dating Violence is a form of Sexual Violence and is abuse committed by a person who is or has been in a social or dating relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. This may include someone the victim just met; i.e., at a party, introduced through a friend, or on a social networking website.

Stalking: This is the engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person (when based on gender or sex) that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her or others’ safety, or causes the victim to suffer substantial emotional distress.  A course of conduct involving more than one instance of unwanted attention, harassment, physical or verbal contact, or any other course of conduct directed at an individual that could be reasonably regarded as likely to alarm or place that individual in fear of harm or injury, including physical, emotional or psychological harm.  This includes cyber-stalking, a particular form of stalking in which electronic media such as the internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts or other similar devices of forms of contact are used to pursue, harass, or make unwelcome contact with another person.  Stalking and cyber-stalking may involve individuals who are known to one another or have an intimate or sexual relationship, or may involve individuals not know to one another.

Retaliation:  An adverse action taken against an individual for making a good faith complaint of prohibited conduct, filing a complaint or lawsuit under federal or state law or university policy that prohibits sexual misconduct, or participating in the investigation of any such allegations. Examples of adverse actions, may include, but are not limited to, the following acts, when such action is taken because the individual brought forward a good faith complaint, participated in an investigation, or protested the alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation:

  • Adverse academic action or employment action
  • Lowering of a grade or a performance evaluation score
  • Given a poor academic recommendation or performance evaluation
  • Exclusion from educational or employment opportunities
  • Limited scholarly activities (e.g., exclusion from teaching or research, or rotation)
  • Spreading negative information about individual involved in a complaint.