OAH Harassment Policy

Adopted December 23, 2019 by the OAH Executive Board

The OAH is committed to fostering an environment free from discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other forms of sexual misconduct. Our organization’s collective professional and intellectual pursuits can only be realized when we treat one another with dignity and respect. To this end, OAH prohibits discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other forms of misconduct on the basis of sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The protections and prohibitions in this policy extend to any members and participants, including employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and guests taking part in OAH-sponsored events and activities. All members and participants, including employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and guests, shall engage in professional and respectful behavior and preserve common standards of professionalism.

Sexual Harassment. OAH prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is behavior (speech or actions) in formal or informal settings that demeans, humiliates, or threatens an individual on the basis of their sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment can also take nonsexual forms and includes discriminatory remarks or actions based on an individual’s sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal comment or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including situations in which the request or conduct involves any implied or expressed promise of professional reward for complying; or the request or conduct involves any implied or expressed threat of reprisal or denial of opportunity for refusing to comply; or the request or conduct results in what reasonably may be perceived as a hostile or intimidating environment. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature or consensual personal and social relationships without discriminatory effect. It refers to behavior that reasonably situated persons would regard as not welcome and as personally intimidating, hostile, or offensive. According to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, the victim of harassment can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct, not just the individual at whom the conduct is directed.

Sexual Misconduct. OAH prohibits other forms of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. Sexual misconduct can be committed by a person of any gender, and it can occur between people of the same or different genders. Sexual misconduct may vary in its severity and consists of a range of behavior or attempted behavior. It can occur between strangers or acquaintances, including people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship. It includes but is not limited to: sexual assault (a continuum of conduct from forcible penetration to nonphysical forms of pressure that compel individuals to engage in sexual activity against their will); sexual exploitation (taking nonconsensual, unjust, or abusive sexual advantage of another person); and sexual intimidation (threatening another person that you will commit a sex act against them or engaging in indecent exposure).

Consent. For the purposes of this policy, consent is a freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in particular sexual activity or behavior, expressed either by words or clear, unambiguous actions. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and, by definition, a person is incapable of consent if the person is unable to understand the facts, nature, extent, or implications of the situation and/or if the person is incapacitated, which includes incapacitation by extreme intoxication, drug use, mental disability, or being unconscious. Critically, the person initiating a particular sexual activity or behavior bears the responsibility of receiving consent. In examining the existence of consent under this policy, OAH will seek to determine, in view of the totality of the circumstances, whether a reasonable person would conclude that the recipient of the initiated sexual activity or behavior was (a) capable of consenting and (b) affirmatively communicated consent to the sexual activity or behavior at issue by words or clear, unambiguous actions.

Retaliation against a complainant of sexual discrimination or harassment or other forms of sexual misconduct is also a violation of these policies. Retaliation occurs when a complainant is deterred from, or punished for, making a complaint in good faith. Retaliation is not limited to formal employment actions such as termination, demotion, non-promotion, or non-selection, but includes any harassing behavior made against a complainant as a result of filing a complaint in good faith.

Members and participants, including employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and guests, should be aware that their home institution’s policies (such as Title IX) may require them to report allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other forms of sexual misconduct involving people affiliated with their institution.

OAH will endeavor to keep all proceedings related to sexual discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other forms of sexual misconduct confidential between OAH, the parties and witnesses. However, OAH cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality of such proceedings. OAH will cooperate with and otherwise share its knowledge and findings with public authorities as required by law. OAH reserves the right to respond to authorized inquiries received from a member’s employer concerning allegations, proceedings, and outcomes under this policy.

This policy will be clearly and prominently displayed on the OAH website. All participants in the annual meeting and anyone obtaining or renewing an OAH membership will be required during the registration process formally to acknowledge the policy and their responsibility to abide by it.

Complaints

Each year, the OAH will designate a complaints team, normally composed of the executive director, a representative from the OAH staff, a member of the OAH executive board, and an additional OAH member. The complaints team will be available to receive complaints from, describe reporting procedures to, provide advice on resources to, and discuss issues with participants in any OAH-sponsored event or activity who have experienced or witnessed violations of this policy. The team’s contact information will be made available on the OAH website and in annual meeting registration materials. Neither the complaints team nor any other OAH official can provide legal advice to those who make reports under this policy.

Members and participants, including employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and guests, who in good faith believe that they have been aggrieved by or witnessed conduct prohibited by this policy should contact the OAH complaints team. The OAH executive director will alert the OAH executive committee to any reported complaints. The executive director will work with the executive committee to review complaints that require action. The OAH will endeavor to respond proportionally and fairly to all complaints. Responses may range from informal resolutions agreed to by the parties to investigations conducted by trained external investigators. In any reported complaint, if any members of the complaints team or executive committee have conflicts of interest, they will recuse themselves.

Possible Consequences

In investigating a complaint, the OAH will hear from both the accuser and the accused. If a violation is determined, possible consequences to be implemented during or after the meeting, activity, or event may include:

  • Warn the violator to cease their behavior and that any further reports will result in more serious consequences
  • Issue a “no-contact’ directive that prohibits the violator from contacting the complainant
  • Require that the violator immediately leave the event and not return
  • Ban the violator from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period).
  • Immediately end any volunteer responsibilities and privileges the violator holds.
  • Require that the violator not volunteer or serve as a contract employee or vendor for OAH, either indefinitely or for a certain time period.
  • Remove and ban the violator from membership in OAH, following established procedures.

The OAH executive director is responsible for implementing and enforcing any response to a violation.

Appeals Procedure

Violators who wish to appeal the OAH’s decision may contact the executive committee in writing with further information regarding the incident. If necessary, an external investigator or consultant ombudsman will conduct additional interviews or other information gathering.

If a majority of the executive committee finds that a reconsideration of the decision is warranted, it may overturn the earlier decision in consultation with the full executive board.

Annual Report

The Executive Director will prepare an annual report of complaints or other evidence of policy violations (with no names used). The report will be circulated to the full executive board at the fall meeting and made available to the membership on request. If sufficiently aggregated to protect privacy and confidentiality, the report may identify how many reports were received, the forms of sexual discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other sexual misconduct alleged, how long the matter took to be resolved, and the outcome.

The text in this policy borrows directly from documents produced by the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations and the American Historical Association. It also draws on documents produced by the Western History Association, the American Geophysical Union, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the University of Iowa.