Discrimination and Harassment FAQ

1. What is discrimination?

The word discrimination is often used to mean illegal discriminatory acts. Discrimination simply means noticing the differences between things or people that are otherwise alike, and making decisions based on those differences. Discrimination is differential treatment of a person by category, class or group rather than objective treatment on the basis of merit.

2. What is a protected class?

A protected class is identified by the characteristic that the people within the class share, such as race or religion. A protected class is a group that is protected from employment discrimination. These groups include race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, height, weight, genetic information, marital status, disability, or veteran status.

3. What types of discrimination are prohibited?

Examples of prohibited discrimination may include, but are not limited to:

  • denying raises, benefits, promotions, leadership opportunities or performance evaluations on the basis of a person's gender, gender identity or gender expression, pregnancy, race, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status, height, weight, genetic information or marital status.
  • preventing any person from using University facilities or services because of that person's gender, gender identity or gender expression, pregnancy, race, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status, height, weight, genetic information or marital status.
  • making determinations regarding a person's salary based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, race, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status, height, weight, genetic information or marital status.
  • denying a person access to an educational program based on that person's gender, gender identity or gender expression, pregnancy, race, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status, height, weight, genetic information or marital status.
  • instigating or allowing an environment that is unwelcoming or hostile based on a person's gender, gender identity or gender expression, pregnancy, race, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status, height, weight, genetic information or marital status.

4. What is Hostile Environment?

Hostile Environment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working or learning environment and is sufficiently severe, pervasive or objectively and subjectively offensive so as to sustainably or effectively interfere with an individual’s employment, education or ability to participate in or receive the benefits, services or opportunities of the University.

 While a person engaging in harassing behavior most often has some form of power or authority over the person being harassed, that is not always the case. The harasser can be a peer of the person being harassed. Sometimes the harasser is harassing a person who has power over them. For example, a supervisee can sexually harass a supervisor, or a student can sexually harass a faculty member.

To determine whether a hostile environment exists, the University examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the identity, number, and relationships of persons involved, when judged objectively and subjectively (meaning that a “reasonable person” ) would find the environment hostile. In some cases, a single incident may be considered so pervasive or objectively and subjectively offensive so as to sustainably or effectively interfere with an individual’s employment, education or ability and create a hostile environment. Such incidents may include injury to persons or property, or conduct threatening injury to persons or property. Threatening or taking a negative employment action (such as termination, demotion, denial of an employee benefit or privilege, or change in working conditions) or negative educational action (such as giving an unfair grade, withholding a letter of recommendation, or withholding assistance with any educational activity) or intentionally making the individual's job or academic work more difficult because sexual conduct is rejected could be examples of hostile environment. Other examples may include the use or display in the classroom or workplace, including electronic, of pornographic or sexually harassing materials such as posters, photos, cartoons or graffiti without pedagogical justification.

5. What restroom can a trans* person use?

A trans* person should be free to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration Guidelines provide that trans* employees must be provided access to the restroom that matches their gender identity. OSHA notes that refusal to provide such access can result in health problems and potential liability.   OSHA also recommends providing a single-occupancy restroom, which employees can use who are uncomfortable with using gendered restrooms.  A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers