It Matters - Vol. 2, No. 4 - November 2012
Is It Harassment? Test Your Knowledge, Part II
EDC’s February 2012 article for Vol. I, No. 4 of It Matters was entitled, “Harassment: Unlawful? Impermissible? Or Just Bad Behavior”? At the conclusion of the article was a link to a workplace harassment quiz. To date, 159 individuals have taken the quiz, with new submissions continuing almost daily. The collective scores are excellent. Only four of the 14 questions had fewer than 80% correct responses:
- Question: It’s okay to ask a fellow employee out on a date as long as you do not persist in pursuing them if they say no. Answer: True, as long as you do not supervise the employee.
- Question: An employee accused of harassment can be found guilty of retaliation, even if the original allegation is proved to be unfounded. Answer: True. Retaliation against the person making an allegation of harassment may carry as serious a penalty as proven harassment.
- Question: North Carolina state law prohibits harassment of someone on the basis of sexual orientation. Answer: False. Sexual orientation is protected by Appalachian State University policy, but not by federal or state law.
- Question: An employee must complain to the employer about harassment in order for the employee to be liable. Answer: True and False, which should have been an option and wasn’t. This was our error. An employee must file a complaint using the employer’s harassment policy and procedures unless the policy is ineffective, not enforced, and/or reporting the behavior may cause more harm to the employee.
In light of the continuing interest about what does and does not constitute unlawful or impermissible harassment in the living, learning and working environments at Appalachian, we are providing another opportunity to test your knowledge.
Below are five hypothetical scenarios for your consideration. At the conclusion of each is a link to a web form. On the web form you may record your decision about whether or not the behavior in question constitutes unlawful or impermissible harassment or other forms of discrimination. If you like, you may elaborate on your judgment in the “Comments” box. When you have finished, simply click the “Submit” button and the results will be sent to the EDC email address, with only a submission number as identification. EDC staff will read all responses and, with your permission, we may include several of them in the December newsletter when we present the EDC responses. You may grant or deny permission to publish your assessment by checking the appropriate box at the top of the web form.
If you’d like a refresher course before you proceed, you can read the first article at http://edc.appstate.edu/newsletters/facstaff/edc/63.
Scenarios for Discussion: Is It Harassment?
1. At the beginning of fall semester 2013, a Jewish student requests that he be excused from class on Friday, September 6 to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Friday, September 13 to celebrate Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are two of Judaism’s High Holy Days. The class meets on M-W-F. A quiz is scheduled every Friday, and the average of the weekly quiz scores counts for 80% of the final grade. When the professor denies the student’s request for excused absences, the student brings a complaint of discrimination based on religion to the Office of EDC.
Does the student have grounds for such a complaint?
2. A public institution with a successful intramural sports program hosts an annual badminton tournament with both a men’s and a women’s division. This year’s tournament has been publicized widely across campus. When registration ends, 36 men and two women have signed up to play. The men’s tournament begins and is scheduled to continue over three days. The women’s tournament begins and ends after one game. The woman who
won her match tells the intramural council that she did not have an equal opportunity to compete because of her sex. The tournament planners argue that the tournament was publicized in venues, residence halls and programs frequented by both men and women, and that they had no control over how many people signed up for either division. The female player persists in making her requests to compete further in the men’s division. If the female student is denied the opportunity to continue in the competition, does she have a valid complaint of sex discrimination under Title IX?
3. A member of the public with a visual impairment requires the services of a guide dog who is trained to assist him with navigation at all times. When the individual attends a sports event, a university official stops him at the gate and says that pets are not allowed in the sports arena.
Is the official’s response an example of discrimination based on disability?
4. A male graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in biology supervises an evening lab for nine male and one female undergraduate students. The GTA is especially attentive to the female student. When male students have questions, he puts them "on hold" because, “Girls need a little extra help in the hard sciences." The female student is flattered when the GTA asks her to get a beer after lab one night to continue discussing ways she can improve her performance. They have a good time and the GTA offers to take the student home afterwards. When they reach her residence hall, the GTA kisses the student on the cheek, and says he'll see her “next time.” The after-lab social sessions continue and the student and the GTA begin a sexual relationship that lasts for several weeks. The student then decides she does not want an exclusive relationship and she tells the GTA of her decision. In future labs the GTA ignores the female student. When the course ends, she receives a failing grade, though her research techniques have improved. She wonders if ending the relationship had anything to do with the failing grade and she wants to talk to the GTA about it, but is afraid.
Could the failing grade given by the GTA constitute unlawful harassment and/or retaliation?
5. An employee in the finance department was promoted recently to supervisor of a unit which consists of six employees who are friendly with one another and often socialize outside of work. She hosts a barbecue to celebrate the promotion and invites all of her former co-workers, whom she now supervises. During the barbecue, the supervisor tells a couple of jokes about Muslims. Later in the evening, she shares two cartoons that show demeaning caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. One employee is visibly upset by the jokes and cartoons and abruptly leaves the barbecue without saying anything to the supervisor. Over the course of the next few months, the supervisor repeatedly makes derogatory comments about people of the Islamic faith. The same employee who abruptly left the barbecue is increasingly uncomfortable with the supervisor’s religious statements but is afraid to speak up.
Could the supervisor’s behavior be considered harassment based on religion if the employee in question is not Muslim?
We look forward to reading your responses.
If you believe you have experienced impermissible or unlawful harassment or other forms of discrimination, or if you are aware that someone else is being subjected to harassment or other forms of discrimination, please contact EDC at 828-262-2144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep reading for ODS article, below.
Guidance on Extension of Assignments
Guidance on Extension of Assignments
Regardless of a disability, all students are responsible for fulfilling the essential requirements of courses/programs/degrees, including meeting completion dates for assignments. However, some students have disabilities which can impact their ability to complete assignments by the due date, including, but not limited to, students whose conditions are episodic in nature, conditions that change and result in problematic symptoms, and conditions that require hospitalization.
The Office of Disability Services (ODS) can provide verification that a student has a disability which may address the legitimacy of an extension request. Instructors should not compromise or lower essential requirements of the course and are not expected to take on an undue administrative burden. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, reasonable accommodations are intended to provide equal access and not necessarily success.
Determining the Reasonableness of an Extension
The ultimate decision regarding extensions and the resulting influence extensions may have on grades is at the discretion of the instructor. ODS encourages instructors to consider the following questions for each course:
- What are the essential course requirements?
- Would an extension (or multiple extensions) fundamentally alter the course?
- What does the course description and syllabus indicate regarding late work or completion deadlines?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon timely completion of assignments as an essential method of learning?
- Does timely completion of assignments constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to submit timely completion of assignments constitute a significant loss of the educational experience for other students in the class?
ODS can work with instructors on a case-by-case basis to assist in determining what is reasonable for each course; there is no established number of extensions to define “occasional.”
Reasonable Accommodations for Absences
In consultation with ODS, instructors often can find reasonable, equivalent options for students to successfully complete essential course requirements without compromising course standards. These options are individually tailored to the disability’s impact, the course requirements, and the instructor’s expectations.
Per the faculty handbook, instructors should include the following on the syllabus: an explanation of course goals and objectives, the name of the text and any other materials required of each student, the instructor’s office hours, an explanation of how the grade is to be determined, and an explanation of any additional reading, papers, projects and examination which the instructor expects to give or assign. The advance notice allows students to be able to begin work earlier and be proactive.
Some options that may be considered include:
- Provide advance notice of completion deadlines.
- Give an incomplete grade to allow an opportunity to fulfill course requirements through an independent study.
- Ask students to submit everything completed by the completion deadline with a small extension on what remains to be completed.
- Should an extension not be an option on a particular assignment, consider providing the option of an additional assignment to make up for points which may have been lost due to the late submission.
Please feel free to contact ODS to discuss more specifics regarding your consideration of extensions in your course or academic program.
Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance
123 I.G. Greer Hall
Boone, NC, 28608 USA