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October 7, 2015 | 24th Tishrei 5776
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Discrimination, Harassment and Offensive Conduct

Disclaimer: This is the discrimination, harassment and offensive conduct policy that the Union uses. However for our synagogues' purposes, this should be treated as a sample policy for informational use only. This policy may not be suitable for your congregation nor the laws of the State in which the congregation exists. We strongly urge you to develop your own policy in cooperation with your congregation's legal counsel.

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All decisions affecting employment, promotion, compensation, assignment and other aspects of the URJ’s work environment shall be made on the basis of qualifications, performance and other pertinent work-related factors, and without discrimination against any person on the basis of race, sex, religion (except where it constitutes a bona fide occupational qualification), national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or any legally protected status.

The URJ shall not tolerate any harassment of, or other offensive conduct toward, any individual based upon race, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any legally protected status. Discriminatory harassment and other offensive conduct includes any conduct, whether verbal, visual, or physical, which creates an abusive and hostile work environment and which has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or development.

This policy applies to all employees and to all volunteers working on behalf of the URJ.

Prohibited Conduct: Preventing harassment and other offensive conduct requires increased awareness by everyone at the URJ of the impact that one’s actions may have on others. In determining whether harassment or other offensive conduct has occurred, it is not a sufficient excuse that the alleged offender "meant no harm" or was "just kidding." Instead, the standard to be applied is the perspective of a reasonable recipient of the alleged harassing or offensive conduct.

Special attention is given to sexual harassment in this policy. Sexual harassment includes, among other things, unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal, physical or visual conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; or

  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the person, whether or not such decisions have direct economic consequences; or

  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect, intentionally or unintentionally, of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Behavior defined in the policy as sexual harassment may occur between people of the opposite or same gender.

Consensual personal relationships between individuals in the URJ are not prohibited by the policy. Those who engage in such relationships, however, should be aware that questions may later arise regarding the actual freedom of choice of one of the parties, particularly when a superior/subordinate relationship exists between them.

Harassment is not limited to regular business hours on the work site. Instances in which it can occur may include work-related meetings, social events, ceremonies, or other non-work-related occasions.

Education and Prevention: The URJ firmly believes that prevention is the best tool for the elimination of harassment. Accordingly, the URJ intends to take all necessary steps to prevent harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval and developing methods to sensitize all concerned.

The URJ will conduct periodic programs on harassment with all current staff. All existing and new staff will be provided a copy of the policy by this Handbook and are expected to comply with its terms.

The program(s) shall include:

  • an explanation of the problem, and of the URJ’s position and policy,
  • the name, addresses and telephone numbers of people designated by the URJ to whom complaints should be made,
  • discussion of what behavior constitutes harassment under the policy, and
  • the review of legal options available to those who believe they have been harassed.

The URJ will also take reasonable steps to inform volunteers of its opposition to harassment in all forms.

Equal Opportunity Committee: To implement the policy, the URJ has developed procedures that enable all employees and volunteers to raise concerns about harassment and offensive conduct based on legally protected status. These procedures include an Equal Opportunity Committee ("EO Committee") which will be available to assist employees and volunteers who wish to raise concerns and to advise the URJ in responding to these concerns. Please contact HR for the members of the EO Committee.

The members of the EO Committee will be appointed by the president or chairman, as appropriate. The EO Committee shall number two employees (one of each gender) and two volunteers (one of each gender). One of these individuals shall be designated by the president to be the EO Committee chair. ("EO Chair").

In the procedures described below where it is indicated that a matter will be referred to the president, it shall pertain to employees of the URJ; and where it will be referred to the chairman, it is understood to apply to matters involving volunteers. If both an employee and a volunteer are involved, the president shall consult with the chairman.

It is implicit that the procedures described below will be implemented on a timely and expedited basis. The president and the chairman jointly are authorized to adopt any required procedures to maintain the continued implementation of this policy.

Procedures for Raising Concerns Regarding Harassment and Offensive Conduct: The procedures described below are available for and applicable to all employees of, and volunteers for, the URJ.

Should there be an instance or complaint of discrimination and/or harassment, individuals should contact the Human Resources Director, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) or any member of the EO Committee for prompt assistance.

1. Selecting a Procedure
The URJ encourages those who believe that they have encountered conduct that violates the policy to take responsive action. The URJ understands that, depending on the nature of the conduct involved and the personal preference of the recipient of that conduct, different responses may be appropriate. The following procedures are available: self-help, informal intervention, and request for a factual review of alleged policy violations. In determining which alternative to pursue, the individual should feel free to consult with any member(s) of the EO Committee. Please note that, in general, commencing one alternative does not mean that the individual cannot also pursue another alternative later. As noted above, an employee represented by the District Council may pursue a matter using the Labor Agreement’s grievance procedure, if applicable, in addition to or instead of this procedure.

2. Self-Help
A person may feel that the appropriate response to particular offensive conduct is either to stop it while it is happening, or to speak to the offending person later and explain that the conduct was offensive. This approach may be most appropriate when it appears that the offending person may not be aware that the conduct is offensive or is operating on the mistaken assumption that the conduct is not unwelcome. Self-help can be an effective means for stopping offensive behavior in a firm yet tactful manner. As an alternative, an individual may choose to send a note to the offending person that informs him or her of the individual’s concern, and requests that there should be a cessation of the behavior.

3. Informal Intervention
In some instances, an individual may not want to approach the offending person directly on her or his own. In that case, members of the EO Committee are available to provide assistance, whether by advising that individual on how to proceed, or by serving as an intermediary in dealing with the offending person. A memorandum of discussion will be kept by the EO Committee. In most instances, requests for intervention can be handled by the EO Committee directly. When the same offending person is identified in a number of situations or where the nature of the specific situation warrants a formal investigation, the EO Chair may report the circumstances to the president, or where appropriate to the chairman, so that appropriate action may be taken.

4. Factual Review of Alleged Policy Violations
Anyone who decides that she or he wants the EO Committee to investigate formally allegations of a violation of this policy should notify the EO Chair. Following such notification, the following steps will usually be taken:

  1. If after considering the allegations, the EO Chair believes that the allegations, if true, would involve a violation of the policy, the EO Chair shall notify the EO Committee. The EO Chair shall appoint two members of the EO Committee to investigate formally the allegations. The EO Chair shall notify the person requesting the investigation, the alleged recipient of the conduct (if different) and the alleged offender of the commencement of an investigation and the name(s) of the members of the EO Committee conducting the investigation. Except in exceptional circumstances such as when the person making the complaint specifically requests confidentiality and the request is honored, as discussed below, the name of the person requesting the investigation will be disclosed to the alleged offending person at this point. If after considering the allegations, the EO Chair does not believe that the allegations, if true, would involve a violation of the policy, the EO Chair shall so notify the person requesting the investigation and the president, or where appropriate, the chairman.

  2. The members of the EO Committee conducting the investigation shall interview the person making the allegations, the alleged recipient of the conduct (if different), the alleged offender, and any witnesses deemed appropriate. All interviews shall be conducted privately.
  3. The alleged offender may suggest witnesses for interview by those conducting the investigation.
  4. Upon completion of the investigation, the members of the EO Committee conducting the investigation shall make a written report to the EO Chair and the president, or where appropriate, the chairman. The report shall be treated with the maximum degree of confidentiality consistent with these procedures.
  5. The president, or where appropriate, the chairman, in consultation with the EO Chair shall determine whether a violation of the policy occurred. The person making the allegation and the accused shall be advised of the results of the investigation.

  6. In cases where a determination is made that there is no violation of the policy, (at the request of the accused), any individual informed of the accusation as part of the formal investigation will be notified of the results.

5. Remedies
The president, or where appropriate, the chairman, in consultation with the EO Chair shall determine the appropriate remedy for violations of the policy. In an egregious case, the president, and/or where appropriate, the chairman, may take appropriate action pending resolution under these guidelines or any legal requirements. The remedies available range from counseling to discharge (consistent with applicable procedures) or, in the case of a volunteer, requiring one to relinquish some or all positions with the URJ, and will vary appropriately with the circumstances presented.

6. Disqualifications
If a review is requested, the person requesting the review, the person who was subject to the alleged harassing conduct (if different), and the person who is alleged to have violated the policy, shall all be disqualified from participating in the process, other than as witnesses, or from making any decisions regarding the merits of the allegations or the appropriate remedy.

7. Confidentiality
All actions taken in response to requests for review will be undertaken with the maximum possible confidentiality, subject to the requirements inherent in conducting a fair review. An individual making allegations may request that her or his name be kept confidential and, except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. where doing so would be inappropriate based on the nature of the allegations), that request will be honored. If such a request is honored, however, it may make it impossible to conduct a factual review. Such request may also limit the URJ’s ability to impose certain remedies. All parties contacted in the course of the review will be required to respect the confidentiality of both the person making the allegations and the accused.

8. Protection Against Retaliation
Retaliation is a very serious violation of the policy and should be reported immediately to the president, the chairman, or the EO Chair. Retaliation against any individual for reporting violations of the Policy or for participating in the process—whether by the object of the allegations or someone else—will not be tolerated and will be subject to strict discipline. Each retaliation offense will be reviewed and remedied separately.

9. False Accusations
The URJ recognizes that the question of whether a particular course of conduct constitutes a violation of the policy requires a factual determination. The URJ also recognizes that false accusations have serious effects on innocent persons. If after investigation, it is clear that a person who has accused another of violating the policy has knowingly made false accusations, the accuser will be subject to appropriate remedies as set forth in Section 5, above. It is important to note, however, that the fact that allegations are not substantiated or are determined not to constitute a violation of the policy, does not necessarily mean that the allegations were made knowing them to be false.

10. URJ-Initiated Investigations
If the president, the chairman, or the EO Chair has reason to believe that a violation of the policy has occurred (other than as a result of allegations made under the policy), he/she may initiate his/her own review.

11. Allegations to Outside Agencies
If an allegation of unlawful conduct is made to an outside agency or court, the URJ reserves the discretion to suspend any of the procedures set forth above and to rely instead on the processes of the agency or court to determine the merits of the allegations. The URJ respects the right of employees and volunteers to raise such allegations.


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