Date Established: 3/1/2010
Date Last Updated: 12/6/2019
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
The University at Buffalo prohibits discrimination and harassment and requires that accommodations be provided to individuals when such accommodations are reasonable and necessary as a result of an individual’s disability, religion, pregnancy, maternity, breastfeeding, transgender status, or sexual violence victim status. This policy describes how the university will investigate or resolve reports of discrimination and harassment.
The University at Buffalo (UB, university) is committed to ensuring equal employment, educational opportunity, and equal access to services, programs, and activities without regard to an individual's race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, gender, pregnancy, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, familial status, veteran status, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction status. This includes, but is not limited to, recruitment, the application process, examination and testing, hiring, training, grading, disciplinary actions, rates of pay or other compensation, advancement, classification, transfer and reassignment, discharge, and all other terms and conditions of employment, educational status, and access to university programs and activities. Employees, students, applicants, or other members of the university community (including but not limited to vendors, visitors, and guests) may not be subjected to harassment that is prohibited by law or treated adversely based upon a protected characteristic.
The university will provide accommodations to ensure the full participation of individuals in university programs, when such accommodations are reasonable and necessary due to an individual's disability, religion, pregnancy, maternity, breastfeeding, transgender status, or sexual violence victim status. The university will provide accommodations to individuals with disabilities in accordance with its Reasonable Accommodation Policy. Religious accommodations will be provided in accordance with the university’s Religious Accommodation and Expression Policy.
Retaliation against anyone who reports discrimination, participates or assists in an investigation, or opposes a discriminatory act, practice, or policy is unlawful and is prohibited by this policy. Retaliation will not be tolerated and may result in a referral to the university’s disciplinary process.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is the campus office designated to manage reports of discrimination. EDI will receive reports of discrimination, conduct necessary investigations, report findings, and make recommendations in accordance with the process outlined below.
The discrimination reporting process provides a mechanism through which the university may identify, respond to, prevent, and eliminate incidents of illegal discrimination. It may be used by any person who believes he or she has been the subject of discrimination in connection with UB. If a claim of discrimination or harassment involves a non-UB entity such as a contractor, vendor, or affiliated hospital, UB will coordinate as necessary to ensure that an appropriate investigation is conducted and that discriminatory or harassing behaviors are addressed.
Ordinarily, discrimination should be reported within one year after the last act of alleged discrimination or harassment occurred. In instances involving a student charge of discrimination against a faculty member that occurred in the context of a subordinate-supervisor academic relationship (e.g., teaching, advising, thesis or dissertation supervision, coaching, clinical medical supervision), the time period may be extended until one year after the student is no longer under the faculty member's academic or clinical medical supervision or three years from the date the most recent alleged discrimination occurred, whichever is earlier. For allegations of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, the time period for reporting is extended to within seven years of the alleged acts of sexual harassment. Failure to report discrimination within the relevant limitation period may lead to dismissal of the claim.
Initial Consultation with Complainant
Any member of the UB community, including contractors, guests, and visitors to UB, may speak confidentially with an EDI representative regarding potential discrimination or harassment. The representative will determine the nature of the issue or concern, obtain relevant facts, and provide guidance as to whether the matter falls under the office's jurisdiction. EDI will maintain a confidential record of the conversation, to the extent allowed by law. If the matter does not fall under EDI's jurisdiction, or if there are parallel avenues which the individual could pursue (e.g., academic grievance procedures), information will be provided regarding the university resources available to address the concern. If the matter falls within EDI's jurisdiction and the individual wishes EDI to conduct an investigation, the complainant will be advised of the subsequent steps in the investigatory process.
In cases where the reporting individual wishes to discuss the matter but not proceed with the investigation process, EDI will maintain a confidential record of the conversation, to the extent allowed by law. It should be noted that in instances of harassment, there may be situations where the university is legally obligated to pursue an investigation regardless of the individual's willingness to proceed. In this event, the individual will be notified, and steps identified to protect the complainant against retaliation and ensure an acceptable working or learning environment for the complainant. In instances involving allegations of serious misconduct, the matter may be referred to appropriate disciplinary channels for investigation.
Victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking have multiple options for redress, as well as the right to obtain assistance in order to ensure they can continue to participate in university programs and activities. These options and rights are described in Appendix B - Student's Bill of Rights.
The complainant will be asked to complete an initial Intake and Information Form, and will be provided assistance in completing this form when necessary. Failure or refusal to complete this form will not preclude investigation of the discrimination report. Individuals may contact EDI anonymously, either for consultation or to report discrimination. It is important to note that due process considerations may limit the ability to investigate or resolve anonymous complaints.
Conducting the Investigation
The investigatory process is guided by the need to balance the remedy of unlawful discrimination and harassment with principles of fairness, due process, and confidentiality. Accordingly, parties to an investigation are afforded the following rights and protections:
For reports of discrimination that also involve law enforcement proceedings, EDI will comply with law enforcement requests for cooperation, including when such cooperation may require EDI to temporarily suspend the fact-finding aspect of an investigation while the law enforcement agency is in the process of gathering evidence. EDI will resume its investigation as soon as it is notified by the law enforcement agency that it has completed the evidence gathering process.
EDI may refer allegations of serious misconduct that could warrant disciplinary action to the applicable disciplinary offices (e.g., Employee Relations, Student Conduct and Advocacy) for investigation and adjudication. EDI will provide notice to the complainant of this referral, and will assist in providing information to the complainant about participation in applicable disciplinary process.
In conducting investigations, EDI considers relevant laws, policies and procedures, documentation, and information obtained from the complainant, respondent, and third party witnesses. The standard of proof in complaints made under this policy is preponderance of the evidence. The timeframe for investigating a report of discrimination will depend upon the complexity of the investigation, but should not exceed sixty days absent good cause. The following are potential outcomes of a complaint investigation:
The parties to a complaint will receive notice of the outcome of the investigation.
Funding agencies may require the university to report findings or determinations of sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault, as well as instances when the university places employees on administrative leave, including when employees have been suspended. EDI will coordinate with Sponsored Projects Services to comply with these funding agency requirements.
In the event that the investigatory process outlined in this policy may result in a conflict of interest, the university will take necessary measures to ensure that the investigation is thorough and impartial. These measures may include reassignment of the responsibility for the investigation. In the event that EDI cannot conduct an investigation due to a conflict of interest, the university will ensure that the report of discrimination is investigated by individuals with experience and training in discrimination compliance. If EDI is precluded from investigating a report of discrimination, the office may still assist complainants and respondents in seeking a voluntary resolution to the matter, as appropriate.
Allegations of discrimination against the university’s president will be handled in accordance with the State University of New York (SUNY) Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure.
If a complainant refuses to cooperate or respond to requests for information in a timely manner, EDI will proceed with an investigation based on the information already provided. In the event that this information does not allow for an effective investigation, the complaint will be closed with notice to the complainant.
In the event that a respondent refuses to cooperate or respond to requests for an interview or other information, the respondent’s supervisor will issue the respondent a directive to cooperate with the investigation. If the respondent’s supervisor cannot issue such a directive because of a conflict of interest, the respondent will be directed to cooperate by the next individual in the chain of command. Failure to comply with this directive will result in a referral for disciplinary action.
There is no right to appeal an EDI finding. A complainant may file a charge of discrimination with the appropriate state or federal enforcement agencies at any point in the process, subject to applicable time limitations. It is important to note that filing an internal report of discrimination pursuant to the process may not extend the time limits established by state and federal enforcement agencies. It is not necessary to pursue university reporting procedures before filing an external complaint.
State and federal enforcement agencies include:
New York State Division of Human Rights
The Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building
65 Court Street, Suite 506
Buffalo, NY 14202
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
300 Pearl St
Buffalo, NY 14202
Office for Civil Rights, New York Office
U.S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
The university’s policy is in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination and harassment. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as Amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and the New York State Human Rights Law. These laws prohibit discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. There may also be local laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence.
An individual bringing forward a complaint of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, whether on the individual's own behalf or on behalf of another person or group.
Different treatment of an individual or group based upon a factor prohibited by law, including race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, gender, pregnancy, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, familial status, veteran status, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction status, that adversely affects the individual’s or group's employment or academic status. Policies or practices that adversely impact a protected group may also constitute discrimination, even when applied in a consistent manner.
Harassment is a form of discrimination. Sex discrimination also includes, but is not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence.
Discrimination may also result from failure of the university to provide accommodations to individuals when required due to the individual's disability, religion, pregnancy status, maternity, breastfeeding, transgender status, or sexual violence victim status.
A form of discrimination consisting of oral, written, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual's protected characteristics that has the effect of subjecting the individual to inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment or interferes with or limits the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the university’s programs or activities. Such conduct must amount to more than petty slights or trivial inconveniences, but need not be severe or pervasive. Engaging in speech or expression protected by the First Amendment is not a violation of the university's policies against discrimination and harassment.
Preponderance of the Evidence
The standard of proof in discrimination cases, which determines whether it is “more likely than not” that the discriminatory or harassing act(s) occurred.
An individual or entity against whom a complaint has been filed.
An adverse action taken against an individual as a result of complaining about discrimination or harassment, exercising a legal right such as obtaining a reasonable accommodation, opposing discriminatory practices or harassment, or participating in or assisting a complaint investigation. Adverse actions may include, but are not limited to: termination or dismissal, failure to promote or assign salary increases, the assignment of lower grades or performance evaluations than other individuals who perform similarly, attempts to intimidate or harass the individual, the assignment of less desirable work to the individual, or the provision of negative references with respect to academic work or employment.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
Sexual harassment, sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination are prohibited under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and New York State Human Rights Law. This university definition of sexual harassment is based on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regulations. Employees who observe or become aware of sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other forms of sex discrimination or harassment should report this information to the Director of EDI, who also serves as the university’s Title IX Coordinator.
The Appendices provide additional information:
Appendix A - sexual harassment
Appendix B - full explanation of the rights of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking
Appendix C - State University of New York (SUNY) Sexual Harassment Response and Prevention Policy Statement
Sexual Harassment Information Advisors
University personnel who have received extensive sexual harassment training, conducted by the Director of EDI or designee, to act as educators and trainers and provide general information on sexual harassment. These individuals may be designated by the president, provost, vice presidents, or deans to serve as Sexual Harassment Information Advisors in their respective areas.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.
|Equity, Diversity and Inclusionfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|December 2019 || |
Updated the policy to:
• Specify that the timeline for reporting discrimination is extended to within seven years of the alleged acts of sexual harassment for allegations of sexual harassment including sexual violence
|March 2019 ||Full review. Updated the policy to: |
• Add transgender and sexual violence victim status to the reasons for an accommodation
• Revised the definition of Retaliation to include opposing discriminatory practices or harassment and assisting a complaint investigation
• Include a responsibility for supervisors, instructors, and others with authority to make decisions on behalf of the university to consider requests for accommodation based on disability, religion, pregnancy, maternity, breastfeeding, transgender, or sexual violence victim status
• Clarify that contractors, guests, and visitors are considered part of the UB community and that they may file a discrimination complaint
• Refer all allegations of serious misconduct that could warrant disciplinary action to the applicable disciplinary offices
• Incorporate new requirements of funding agencies for reporting findings or determinations of sexual harassment, other forms of harassment, or sexual assault, or when the university places employees on administrative leave including suspension
• Clarify that sexual harassment is a form of misconduct with enforceable sanctions (Appendix A)
• Add Appendix C, SUNY Sexual Harassment Response and Prevention Policy Statement
|November 2015||Updated to add familial status as an additional bias that is protected by law. |
|October 2015||Updated Appendix B to reflect New York State legislation modifying the Students’ Bill of Rights, formerly the Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights.|
|June 2015||Updated Appendix B to reflect the current SUNY Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights.|
|June 2014||Updated to comply with a Resolution Agreement between SUNY and the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The major changes include the addition of some definitions, clarification of the legal standard for considering complaints, and an expansion of the description of rights available to victims of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking (captured in the policy and a revised Appendix B). |
|April 2012||Updated procedures pertaining to a potential conflict of interest and added Appendix B regarding sexual violence.|
|November 2011||Updated Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action (EDAAA) department name to reflect the current name of Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).|
In determining whether conduct constitutes harassment, consideration will be given to the record as a whole and to the totality of circumstances, including the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the incidents occurred.
Certain behavior can be classified as sexual harassment even if a relationship appears voluntary in the sense that one was not coerced into participating. A central element in the definition of sexual harassment is that the behavior is unwelcome.
Some acts or practices that have the effect of discouraging individuals of either sex from pursuing academic or professional interests may not constitute sexual harassment because they are not sexual in nature. Such acts may nevertheless constitute illegal sex discrimination if the behavior is directed toward members of one sex and not the other.
Sexual harassment can take different forms, and the determination of what constitutes sexual harassment will vary according to the particular circumstances. Sexual harassment may involve behavior by a person of either sex against a person of the same or opposite sex. Harassment that is sexual in content is always actionable regardless of the harasser’s sex, sexual orientation, or motivations.
Examples of sexual harassment may include but are not limited to:
The first two examples illustrate what is characterized as the "quid pro quo" form of sexual harassment. The third example illustrates the "hostile environment" form of sexual harassment. "Hostile environment" sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behavior toward another employee or student that has the effect of altering the conditions of the victim's employment or academic pursuits and creates a work or educational environment that a reasonable person would find abusive. (This explanation of "hostile environment" sexual harassment is based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v Vinson 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986)) and the New York State Human Rights Law (see, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296)).
Sexual harassment is a form of misconduct, and sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
Isolated instances (e.g., a sexual comment or joke), ordinarily will not constitute sexual harassment unless the circumstances are egregious. Such sexual behavior does not constitute harassment if it is welcomed (i.e., voluntary and consensual). It is important to note that conduct in the workplace or educational setting may fall short of the legal standard for sexual harassment but may still be addressed as unprofessional or unacceptable in a work or academic environment.
Students' Bill of Rights
The State University of New York and UB are committed to providing options, support and assistance to victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking to ensure that they can continue to participate in university-wide and campus programs, activities, and employment. All victims and survivors of these crimes and violations, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, familial status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction, have the following rights, regardless of whether the crime or violation occurs on campus, off campus, or while studying abroad:
All students have the right to:
Victims and survivors have many options that can be pursued simultaneously, including one or more of the following:
Copies of this Bill of Rights shall be distributed annually to students, made available on UB's website, and posted in each campus residence hall, dining hall, and student union or campus center and shall include links or information to access the Sexual Violence Response Policy and the Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence.
Revised August 13, 2015
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is unlawful in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and the New York State Human Rights Law. Under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, sexual harassment also is prohibited in the provision of educational services and protects students and employees from sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is prohibited and will not be tolerated at SUNY. SUNY and UB have implemented measures to address and prevent sexual harassment and is taking additional affirmative steps to increase awareness of, and sensitivity to, all forms of sexual harassment in order to maintain a workplace and learning environment free of its harmful effects. Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination and employee misconduct, as well as a form of discrimination in the academic setting, and all employees and students are entitled to work and learn in a campus environment that prevents sexual harassment. All employees and students have a legal right to a workplace and a campus free from sexual harassment, and employees and students can enforce this right by filing a complaint internally with the university, or with a government agency, or in court under federal or state anti-discrimination laws, as detailed in the University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy.
In accordance with applicable law, sexual harassment is generally described as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
Sexual harassment can include physical touching, verbal comments, non-verbal conduct such as leering or inappropriate written or electronic communications, or a combination of these things. Examples of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to:
Such behavior can constitute sexual harassment regardless of the sex, gender, sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, status of being transgender, or gender identity of any of the persons involved. Sexual harassment is considered a form of employee and student misconduct which may lead to disciplinary action. Further, supervisors and managers will be subject to discipline for failing to report suspected sexual harassment or otherwise knowingly allowing sexual harassment to continue. Employees and students who believe they have been subjected to sexual harassment may file a report under the University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy.
Retaliation against a person who files a complaint, serves as a witness, or assists or participates in any manner in this procedure, is unlawful, is strictly prohibited and may result in disciplinary action. Retaliation is an adverse action taken against an individual as a result of complaining about or provides information regarding unlawful discrimination or harassment, exercising a legal right, or participating in a complaint investigation as a third-party witness. Adverse action includes being discharged, disciplined, discriminated against, or otherwise subject to adverse action because the individual reports an incident of sexual harassment, provides information, or otherwise assists in any investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. Participants who experience retaliation should contact the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and may file a complaint pursuant to these procedures.
SUNY campuses and System Administration shall take the necessary steps to ensure that this Sexual Harassment Response and Prevention Policy Statement is distributed, implemented, and enforced in accordance with their respective policies.