Updated November 2021
WEDO is committed to a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Each individual has the right to work in a professional atmosphere that promotes equal employment opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices, including harassment.
WEDO is committed to a workplace free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. WEDO does not tolerate and prohibits harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by or against employees, supervisors, clients, job applicants, contractors, interns, volunteers, visitors, vendors, customers or any other third party (collectively, “Covered Persons”). Therefore, WEDO expects that all relationships among persons in the workplace will be business-like and free of bias, prejudice and harassment.
Definition of Harassment
Harassment is defined as verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of the individual’s actual or perceived Protected Characteristic. Harassment and discrimination, whether verbal, physical or environmental, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by WEDO.
Harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are unacceptable in the workplace and in any work-related settings such as business trips and WEDO-sponsored social functions, regardless of whether the conduct is engaged in by or against any Covered Person. Calls, texts, emails and social media usage by employees and other Covered Persons can constitute prohibited workplace harassment, even if they occur away from workplace premises, on personal devices, or during non-work hours. In addition to being in violation of this policy, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are unlawful.
The following examples of harassment are intended to be guidelines and are not exclusive when determining whether there has been a violation of this policy:
- Verbal harassment includes comments that are offensive or unwelcome regarding a person’s nationality, origin, race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, body, disability or appearance, including epithets, slurs and negative stereotyping.
- Nonverbal harassment includes distribution, display or discussion of any written or graphic material that ridicules, denigrates, insults, belittles or shows hostility, aversion or disrespect toward an individual or group because of national origin, race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, appearance, disability, sexual identity, marital or other protected status.
Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment includes harassment on the basis of sex or gender (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), gender identity or gender expression (including transgender status) and/or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct which is either of a sexual nature or which is directed at an individual because of that individuals’ sex or gender (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), gender identity or gender expression (including transgender status) and/or sexual orientation when:
- submission to that conduct or those advances, or requests is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; or
- submission to or rejection of the conduct or advances or requests by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or
- the conduct or advances or requests have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Sexual harassment can be verbal (including slurs, jokes, insults, epithets, gestures or teasing), visual (including offensive posters, symbols, cartoons, drawings, computer displays, text messages, social media posts or emails) or physical conduct (including physically threatening another) that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion towards an individual on the basis of sex or gender (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), gender identity or gender expression (including transgender status) and/or sexual orientation. Such conduct violates this policy, even if it is not unlawful.
Because it is difficult to define unlawful sexual harassment, employees are expected to behave at all times in a manner consistent with the intended purpose of this policy.
Examples of conduct that violates this policy include:
- unwelcome sexual advances, comments, gestures, flirtations, leering, whistling, touching, kissing, pinching, assault, blocking normal movement;
- requests for sexual favors or demands for sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment;
- sexual jokes or comments about a person’s body, sexuality or sexual experience;
- propositions or suggestive or insulting comments of a sexual nature;
- derogatory, obscene or vulgar cartoons, posters, pictures, and drawings;
- sexually-explicit emails or voicemails;
- conversation about one’s own or someone else’s sex life;
- conduct, comments, or hostile actions consistently targeted at only one gender or because of the person’s gender or gender identity or expression, even if the content is not sexual.
Definition of Retaliation
Retaliation means adverse conduct taken because an individual reported an actual or perceived violation of this policy, opposed practices prohibited by this policy or participated in the reporting and investigation process described below. “Adverse conduct” includes but is not limited to:
- any action that would discourage an employee from reporting sexual harassment or retaliation;
- shunning and avoiding an individual who reports sexual harassment or retaliation;
- express or implied threats or intimidation intended to prevent an individual from reporting sexual harassment or retaliation; and
- denying employment benefits because an applicant or employee reported or encouraged another employee to report sexual harassment or retaliation or participated in the reporting and investigation process described below.
For example, sexual harassment and retaliation against an individual because the individual filed a complaint of sexual harassment or because an individual aided, assisted or testified in an investigation or proceeding involving a complaint of sexual harassment are unlawful.
Reporting and Investigation
Preventing sexual harassment is everyone’s responsibility. WEDO cannot prevent or remedy sexual harassment unless it knows about it. Covered Persons who believe they have been the subject of behavior prohibited by this policy, who have witnessed such conduct, who are aware of any such conduct, or who have concerns about such matters, are encouraged to report such behavior to a supervisor, manager, WEDO’s Director, or to PRIMUS Human Resources at WEDOHR@primusco.com. Anyone who witnesses or becomes aware of potential instances of sexual harassment should report such behavior to a supervisor, manager, WEDO’s Director.
If the person toward whom the complaint is directed is one of the individuals indicated above, the employee should contact the Chair of the Board.
Reports of sexual harassment may be made verbally or in writing. A form for submission of a written complaint is attached to this Policy, and all employees are encouraged to use this complaint form. Employees who are reporting sexual harassment on behalf of other employees should use the complaint form and note that it is on another employee’s behalf. If the employee makes a complaint under this policy and has not received a satisfactory response within five (5) business days, the employee should contact the Board of Directors of WEDO.
Employees, paid or unpaid interns, or non-employees who believe they have been a target of sexual harassment may also seek assistance in other available forums, as explained below in the section on Legal Protections.
All supervisors and managers who receive a complaint or information about suspected sexual harassment, observe what may be sexually harassing behavior or for any reason suspect that sexual harassment is occurring, are required to immediately report such suspected sexual harassment to WEDO’s Director.
In addition to being subject to discipline if they engaged in sexually harassing conduct themselves, supervisors and managers will be subject to discipline for failing to report suspected sexual harassment or otherwise knowingly allowing sexual harassment to continue. Supervisors and managers will also be subject to discipline for engaging in any retaliation.
Early reporting and intervention have proven to be the most effective method of resolving actual or perceived incidents of harassment. Therefore, while no fixed reporting period has been established, WEDO strongly urges the prompt reporting of complaints or concerns so that rapid and constructive action can be taken. The availability of this complaint procedure does not preclude individuals who believe they are being subjected to harassing conduct from promptly advising the offender that their behavior is unwelcome and requesting that it be discontinued.
WEDO will promptly conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of all reports of conduct prohibited by this policy, whether that information was reported in verbal or written form. While the investigation is ongoing, WEDO may take interim actions, as appropriate. Those responsible for the investigation will maintain the confidentiality of the allegations of the complaint and the identity of the person(s) involved, subject to the need to (a) conduct a full and impartial investigation, (b) remedy any violations of WEDO’s policies, or (c) monitor compliance with WEDO policies.
The investigation generally will include, but may not be limited to, discussion with the complaining party, the person(s) against whom allegations have been made, and witnesses, if appropriate. Those responsible for the investigation may review documents, request information or materials from individuals and may review electronic and hard-copy files or communications. WEDO prohibits retaliation against any Covered Person who makes a complaint under this policy or participates in the investigation. WEDO will take reasonable measures to support the timely closure of an investigation.
An investigation of any complaint, information or knowledge of suspected sexual harassment will be prompt and thorough, commenced immediately and completed as soon as possible. The investigation will be kept confidential to the extent possible. All persons involved, including complainants, witnesses and alleged harassers will be accorded due process, as outlined below, to protect their right to a fair and impartial investigation.
Any employee may be required to cooperate as needed in an investigation of suspected sexual harassment. WEDO will not tolerate retaliation against employees who file complaints, support another’s complaint or participate in an investigation regarding a violation of this policy.
WEDO will take whatever action it believes is appropriate under the circumstances to resolve prohibited conduct and to prevent the occurrence of such conduct in the future. Responsive action may include, for example, counseling, suspension or immediate termination. Anyone, regardless of position or title, whom WEDO determines has engaged in conduct that violates this policy will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. This includes individuals engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation, as well as supervisors who fail to report violations of this policy, or knowingly allow prohibited conduct to continue. Individuals who engage in conduct that rises to the level of a violation of law can be held personally liable for such conduct. If it is determined that conduct is not discrimination, harassment or retaliation, it may violate another policy of WEDO or be unprofessional conduct that justifies discipline. In the case of harassment of a Covered Person by someone outside of WEDO, reasonable steps will be taken to remedy the problem and prevent its recurrence.
After receiving the results, the complainant and the accused will have time to provide any response in writing for consideration by WEDO as it determines the appropriate corrective measures to take against any person it finds to have engaged in conduct in violation of this policy.
Legal Protections and External Remedies
Aside from the internal complaint process at WEDO, individuals may choose to pursue external legal remedies with the following governmental entities.
State Human Rights Law (HRL)
The Human Rights Law (HRL), codified as N.Y. Executive Law, art. 15, § 290 et seq., applies to all employers in New York State with regard to sexual harassment, and protects employees, paid or unpaid interns and non-employees, regardless of immigration status. A complaint alleging violation of the Human Rights Law may be filed either with the Division of Human Rights (DHR) or in New York State Supreme Court.
Complaints with DHR may be filed any time within one (1) year of the harassment. If an individual did not file at DHR, they can sue directly in state court under the HRL, within three (3) years of the alleged sexual harassment. An individual may not file with DHR if they have already filed an HRL complaint in state court.
Complaining internally to WEDO does not extend the time to file with DHR or in court. The one (1) year or three (3) years is counted from the date of the most recent incident of harassment. An attorney is not needed to file a complaint with DHR, and there is no cost to file with DHR.
DHR will investigate complaints and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that sexual harassment has occurred. Probable cause cases are forwarded to a public hearing before an administrative law judge. If sexual harassment is found after a hearing, DHR has the power to award relief, which varies but may include requiring the employer to take action to stop the harassment, or redress the damage caused, including paying of monetary damages, attorney’s fees and civil fines.
DHR’s main office contact information is: NYS Division of Human Rights, One Fordham Plaza, Fourth Floor, Bronx, New York 10458; (718) 741-8400; www.dhr.ny.gov. Contact DHR at (888) 392-3644 or visit dhr.ny.gov/complaint for more information about filing a complaint. The website has a complaint form that can be downloaded, filled out, notarized and mailed to DHR. The website also contains contact information for DHR’s regional offices across New York State.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act (codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.). An individual can file a complaint with the EEOC anytime within 300 days from the harassment. There is no cost to file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate the complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, at which point the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter permitting the individual to file a complaint in federal court.
The EEOC does not hold hearings or award relief but may take other action including pursuing cases in federal court on behalf of complaining parties. Federal courts may award remedies if discrimination is found to have occurred. In general, private employers must have at least 15 employees to come within the jurisdiction of the EEOC.
An individual alleging discrimination at work can file a “Charge of Discrimination.” The EEOC has district, area, and field offices where complaints can be filed. Contact the EEOC by calling 1-800-669-4000 (TTY: 1-800-669-6820), visiting their website at www.eeoc.gov or via email at email@example.com.
If an individual filed an administrative complaint with DHR, DHR will file the complaint with the EEOC to preserve the right to proceed in federal court.
Many localities enforce laws protecting individuals from sexual harassment and discrimination. An individual should contact the county, city or town in which they live to find out if such a law exists. For example, those who work in New York City may file complaints of sexual harassment with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Contact their main office at Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, 40 Rector Street, 10th Floor, New York, New York; call 311 or (212) 306-7450; or visit www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/html/home/home.shtml.
Contact the Local Police Department
If the harassment involves unwanted physical touching, coerced physical confinement or coerced sex acts, the conduct may constitute a crime. Contact the local police department. Remember, WEDO cannot remedy claimed sexual harassment or retaliation unless individuals bring these claims to the attention of management. Please report any conduct which violates this policy.