Sexual Harassment Investigation & Resolution Process

If you have experienced sexual discrimination, harassment or assault in the course of your Harvard job, please reach out your HUCTW organizer. If you are unsure of who your HUCTW organizer is, you can reach out to us at or 617-661-8289 and we will put you in touch with them. Everything you discuss with us is confidential.

An HUCTW organizer is available to speak to you informally–for confidential guidance and support–or you may initiate Harvard and HUCTW’s official problem-resolution process for sexual harassment and assault complaints (described on pages 3-6 of the HUCTW Personnel Manual and excerpted below).

Please note that this process described below is separate from the University’s Title IX process. HUCTW members have access to both processes. Whatever process you choose to pursue (or if you prefer to speak to us informally without initiating a problem-resolution process), an HUCTW representative is always available to provide you with confidential support and guidance.


Sexual harassment is discriminatory and unlawful. It may cause personal anguish as well as career damage, and as an assault upon an individual’s dignity, it is clearly inconsistent with the nature of an academic community.

The purpose of this policy is to prevent sexual harassment and offer an employee who experiences harassment a swift and secure means to end it. Sexual harassment is a violation of University policy and of state and federal law.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Such conduct constitutes sexual harassment when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Sexual harassment may take the form of lewd and suggestive looks or comments, sexually explicit or offensive publicly displayed pictures or magazines, or physical contact. Sexual harassment need not be intentional to violate this policy. Sexual harassment generally, although not always, occurs in circumstances where the harasser has some form of power or authority over the working life of the harassed. In assessing the existence of sexual harassment in a particular case, the record as a whole and the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred, will be considered. The determination of conduct which violates this policy will be made from the facts, on a case-by-case basis.

Under the law, Harvard University is responsible for providing a work environment free of sexual harassment. The University may pursue any complaint of sexual harassment known to it in order to satisfy this legal obligation. The responsibility of the University in handling complaints of sexual harassment extends to complaints against students, other support staff members, faculty, supervisors, administrators, and any other members of the Harvard community.

Informal Counseling and Resolution

In most instances, informal discussion, mediation and problem resolution is best to resolve perceived instances of harassment. Problems are often easier to resolve when an informal atmosphere encourages people to identify the difficulty, talk it out, and agree on how to deal with it. In order to maintain control over the progress of events, the employee may first wish to seek advice anonymously.

(1) Whom to Contact

Problems and questions relating to sexual harassment may be discussed with:

  • The counselors of the Employee Assistance Program, 1-877-327-4278;
  • Local sexual harassment advisors, as described below;
  • A union representative;
  • An administrative representative, including a local human resources officer;

These individuals may be especially useful in advising and aiding the employee’s own efforts to resolve a problem. Such help may involve coaching the employee in preparation for a conversation with the person causing the problem, or assisting the employee in writing a letter to that person describing the offending behavior 5 and requesting that it stop. Alternatively, the employee may ask the counselor or representative to meet with the person causing the problem to seek a resolution.

(2) Confidentiality

Throughout the Informal Resolution process, the individuals listed above will ordinarily hold information in confidence unless or until the initiating employee agrees that another party or parties must be informed to facilitate a solution.

(3) Protection of the Parties

Throughout the Informal Resolution process and the Formal Review process described below, every effort will be made to protect the employee bringing the complaint from reprisals or retaliation and to protect the rights of the alleged harasser. Proven instances of retaliation or reprisal against the employee bringing the complaint constitute a violation of this policy and are subject to appropriate sanctions. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to relocate the employee bringing the complaint or to offer leave while resolution is sought.

Formal Review

Employees have the option of initiating a Formal Review of an allegation of sexual harassment, either initially or in the event that an Informal Resolution is not reached. The locally designated sexual harassment officer and a trained HUCTW representative will be assigned to review the case together.

(1) Confidentiality

At each step of the Formal Review, the privacy of individuals involved shall be protected, insofar as possible. Both in fact-finding and in final resolution, every effort will be made to carry out all activities on a confidential basis.

(2) When to Initiate Formal Review

Prompt reporting is strongly urged, as it is often difficult to trace the facts of an incident or incidents long after they have occurred.

(3) How to Initiate Formal Review

An employee may initiate the Formal Review process by written request, describing the alleged harassment.

(4) The Formal Review Process

  • A.  Within ten days of receiving the written request for review, these two representatives (see above) will consult with the employee bringing the complaint (“the complainant”) and the alleged harasser (“the respondent”) and others, if appropriate, in order to determine the facts and the views of both parties. The University General Counsel’s Office may also be consulted.
  • B.  Ordinarily within 60 calendar days, but in no case more than 90 calendar days from the date on which the Formal Review process was requested, the two designated representatives will conduct an inquiry and prepare a report, in confidence, summarizing the relevant evidence and including any recommended 6 resolution to the complaint reached by consensus. The report will be sent to the Dean or Vice President (or her/his designee), the complainant and the respondent.
  • C.  In the event that the recommended resolution is not satisfactory to the parties involved, the matter will be referred promptly to the University Problem Solving Team (UPST). The designated members of the UPST will determine the nature of the unresolved issues and conduct further inquiry as appropriate. The UPST will complete its consideration of the matter within 30 calendar days. The UPST in reviewing the matter will consult with the Dean or Vice President of the school or administrative unit and the General Counsel of the University.
  • D.  If the recommended resolution of the UPST is not satisfactory to the parties involved, the matter will be referred promptly to a mediator in accordance with Article I of the HUCTW collective bargaining agreement.

(5) Notice of Resolution

When resolution is reached, the complainant and the respondent will be notified in writing of the nature of that resolution and of corrective or remedial action, if any. The Dean or Vice President (or her/his designee) will be responsible for ensuring action consistent with the resolution is taken.

(6) Penalties

The penalties for sexual harassment depend on the nature of the offense. Where the respondent is a student or faculty member, any sanction will be determined by the disciplinary process applicable to students or faculty. Sanctions may range from reprimand to dismissal.