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Office of Institutional Equity

FAQs on Discrimination and Harassment

The following frequently asked questions and answers provide general information on the reporting, handling, and adjudication of complaints of discrimination and harassment.  If you have any questions that are not addressed here, please contact the Johns Hopkins University Office of Institutional Equity (“OIE”) at oie@jhu.edu, titleixcoordinator@jhu.edu, or 410-516-8075.

  • What are Johns Hopkins University's general principles on discrimination and/or harassment?
    Johns Hopkins University is committed to creating and maintaining an educational, working, and living environment free from discrimination and harassment. Any form of discrimination and/or harassment based on a protected characteristic, as defined by the University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures is strictly prohibited. When the University becomes aware that a member of the University community may have been subjected to or affected by discriminatory and/or harassing behavior, the University will take prompt action to stop the behavior. The course of action taken by the University, including any resulting disciplinary actions, will depend on the particular facts and circumstances involved.
  • What behaviors are prohibited under the Johns Hopkins University Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures?
    The Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures prohibits discrimination and/or harassment based on a protected characteristic. It also prohibits retaliation.
  • What are protected characteristics?
    Protected characteristics are those personal traits, characteristics, and/or beliefs that are defined by applicable law as protected from discrimination and harassment. They include sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, color, ethnicity, ancestry or national origin, immigration status, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, veteran status or other legally protected characteristic.
  • What is discrimination according to University policy?
    "Discrimination" is defined by the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures as adverse treatment of an individual based on a protected characteristic, rather than individual merit.

    Examples of conduct that can constitute discrimination if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:

    - Singling out or targeting an individual for different or less favorable treatment (e.g., more severe discipline, lower salary increase) because of their protected characteristic.
    - Failing or refusing to hire or admit an individual because of their protected characteristic.
    - Terminating an individual from employment or an educational program based on their protected characteristic.
  • What is harassment according to University policy?
    "Harassment" is defined by the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures as any type of behavior which is based on an individual’s or group’s membership in a “protected class(es)” that is: (a)  unwelcome and (b) offensive when:

    1) Submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of the individual’s employment or participation in an education program or activity;
    2) Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions or advancement; or
    3) Such conduct unreasonably creates a work or academic environment that a reasonable person would perceive to be abusive or hostile. 

    The alleged conduct need not be severe or pervasive. The university considers the totality of the circumstances when assessing whether the alleged conduct unreasonably creates an abusive or hostile work or academic environment from the perspective of a reasonable person. This includes consideration of whether the unwelcome and offensive conduct unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives a member of the community of the ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services or opportunities from the University’s education or employment programs and/or activities. Although the alleged conduct need not be severe or pervasive in order to constitute an unreasonably hostile or abusive environment, the heightened seriousness of alleged severe or pervasive conduct will be considered during OIE’s process.

    Harassment when directed at an individual because of their membership in a “protected class(es)” may include, but is not limited to:

    - Conduct, whether verbal, physical, written, graphic, or electronic that threatens, intimidates, offends, belittles, denigrates, or shows an aversion toward an individual or group.
    - Epithets, slurs, and/or negative stereotyping, jokes, or nicknames.
    - Written, printed, or graphic material that contains offensive, denigrating, and/or demeaning comments, and/or pictures.
    - The display of offensive, denigrating, and/or demeaning objects, e-mails, text messages, and/or cell phone pictures.
  • What is retaliation according to University policy?
    "Retaliation" is defined by the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures as any attempt to seek retribution against an individual or group of individuals because they filed a complaint or report, participated in the investigation or resolution of a complaint or report, opposed conduct that they reasonably believe to be prohibited by University policy, or exercised any right or responsibility under University policy.  Retaliation can take many forms, including abuse or violence, threats, and intimidation.
  • What happens if I experience harassing behavior, but the other person says that it was unintentional or a joke?
    Intent is not relevant in determining whether or not behavior is harassing. Regardless of intent, the behavior will be judged by its impact on the recipient, who can be the person directly affected or a third party who witnesses the behavior. In order to assess the impact of behavior, the University considers whether a reasonable person in similar circumstances would find the behavior abusive or hostile.
  • How does the University address concerns about identities that are not protected characteristics?
    Johns Hopkins University is committed to fostering an inclusive campus community in which all forms of identity are valued and all individuals feel welcome on campus. There can be forms of identity and life experiences, such as socioeconomic background, that are not protected by law. You may consult OIE for guidance if you feel that you are being treated unfairly based on your identity.
  • Are "microaggressions" prohibited under University policy?
    Microaggressions can be defined as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” (Derald Wing Sue: Microaggressions in Everyday Life, 2010.) Microaggressions differ from overt, deliberate acts of discrimination because the people perpetrating microaggressions often are unaware they are causing harm. A microaggression  nonetheless has the potential to constitute prohibited harassment under the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures if it unreasonably creates an abusive or hostile work or academic environment from the perspective of a reasonable person.
  • What is sexual misconduct and how does it relate to other University policies about discrimination and/or harassment?
    Sexual misconduct, such as sexual and sex-based harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence, is defined by and prohibited under the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures.  For information about the University’s process for addressing and responding to sexual misconduct, please refer to that policy and the FAQs on Sexual Misconduct.
  • What role does freedom of expression play in determining whether discrimination and/or harassment have taken place?
    Behavior that constitutes discrimination or harassment under the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures is prohibited. There may be other instances, however, in which individuals express disagreeable or offensive ideas or opinions that do not constitute discrimination or harassment, but which are rather allowable under the principle of freedom of expression. In responding to complaints, the University considers the circumstances and works to assess the balance between eliminating discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of expression.

    The University’s Statement on Academic Freedom states, in part: “Our university is committed to the steadfast protection of the right to academic freedom. This commitment emerges from the university’s time-honored role in the creation of knowledge and the sifting and winnowing of ideas. Without full and vigorous protection of this principle, the university’s capacity to discharge its hallowed mission would be compromised. However, academic freedom is not unbounded. As with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on whose precepts it is based, academic freedom does not guarantee the right to defame or threaten, to deface or harass, or to incite violence or infringe on privacy. And reasonable and viewpoint-neutral rules for the time, place, and manner of expression are a legitimate way to ensure the orderly conduct of the university.”
  • I feel that I have experienced discrimination and/or harassment. What are my options?
    You are encouraged to report all incidents and complaints of discrimination and/or harassment to the University. OIE will assess such reports to determine next steps under the Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures, which could include an investigation, informal resolution, or other measures/actions.  However, you have other options besides submitting a report to OIE, including consulting confidential counseling or filing a complaint with law enforcement. The University recognizes that deciding among these options can be difficult and individuals are encouraged to seek information before deciding how to proceed. OIE is available to address questions and hypothetical situations about OIE’s process and options, even if you are not ready to disclose any specific information.  In addition, various confidential resources can help you consider the options. Please click here to see a list of confidential resources.
  • I was told or am concerned that someone else has experienced discrimination and/or harassment. What are my options?
    You should first consider whether you are a “responsible employee,” sometimes referred to as a “mandated reporter.” University employees designated as “responsible employees” have an obligation to report any information about possible discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct to OIE. Please see this guidance for further information about responsible employees and their reporting obligations. If you determine that you are a responsible employee, you must promptly report your concerns about discrimination and/or harassment to OIE.

    Even if you are not a responsible employee, anyone can choose to share information with OIE if they wish (with the exception of designated confidential resources, such as Counseling Center therapists). If speaking to OIE is not your preference, some other options include, but are not limited to:

    - Checking in with the person you are concerned about to see if they are okay.
    - Providing that person with information about confidential and non-confidential resources they might find helpful.
    - Contacting a confidential resource yourself for guidance on how to respond to your concerns.
    - Reaching out to OIE directly for information and resources that you can pass along to the impacted person yourself, without disclosing their identity to OIE.
    - Submitting an anonymous report to OIE disclosing whatever information you choose.
    - Contacting law enforcement or University public safety.
  • How do I submit a complaint of discrimination and/or harassment to the University?
    Contact OIE at (410) 516-8075, e-mail oie@jhu.edu, or submit an online complaint to OIE.
  • Can I file a complainant against a student? Against a faculty member? Against a staff member?
    Yes, any member of the University community can make a complaint against any other member of the community.
  • I feel that I have experienced discrimination and/or harassment by a non-University employee or student. Do I have any options?
    Yes. The University’s ability to discipline an individual who is not an employee or student (such as a vendor or contractor) is limited by the degree of control, if any, that the University has over such individual. Nonetheless, the University will seek to take appropriate action in response to allegations of discrimination and/or harassment against non-affiliates. That may include providing accommodations to you and speaking with the third-party regarding the issue.
  • Is there a "statute of limitations" on filing a complaint of discrimination and/or harassment?
    No, there is no “statute of limitations” or deadline for filing a complaint of discrimination and/or harassment under University policy. The University encourages prompt reporting of complaints when possible because delayed reporting may limit the University’s ability to investigate and respond.
  • Will my report about alleged discrimination and/or harassment be kept confidential?
    OIE is not considered a "confidential resource" because of its obligations to prevent, address, and remediate discrimination and harassment. Complainants may ask OIE to keep their report confidential and/or not take further action, and OIE will consider all such requests. However, if OIE decides to investigate the allegations, such investigation typically requires disclosure to the accused individual and to other witnesses for the purpose of gathering pertinent information. In such a case, disclosures will be limited to the extent possible.
  • What if I want to remain anonymous?
    Reports of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation may be filed anonymously, meaning that the individual submits the complaint without identifying themselves. The University may not be able to fully investigate anonymous complaints due to lack of information and the inability to interact with the complainant.

    Anonymous complaints can be made through the Johns Hopkins Compliance Line. You can make a report by calling 1-844-SPEAK2US (1-844-773-2528) or submitting a report online.

    You may also make an anonymous complaint of discrimination and/or harassment to OIE online, at (410) 516-8075, or at oie@jhu.edu.
  • How will Johns Hopkins support my well-being if I report alleged discrimination and/or harassment?
    When appropriate, prior to or during the investigation, the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, the Assistant Vice Provost/Title IX Coordinator, or other University officials may assist with your living, academic, or working situation in order to protect your safety and well-being and/or that of other members of the University community. The Vice Provost for Institutional Equity or other University officials can also take these steps even if you choose not to pursue a formal complaint, or the matter does not lend itself to investigation. Adjustments might include:

    Access to counseling services.
    Rescheduling of exams and assignments.
    Change in class schedule, including the ability to transfer course sections or withdraw from a course.
    Change in work schedule or job assignment.
    Change in campus housing.
    - Imposition of a "no contact order," or other administrative remedies designed to curtail contact and communications between two or more individuals.
  • Who investigates complaints and how are they trained?
    OIE investigates all complaints of discrimination and/or harassment against University students, faculty, and staff. All OIE investigators have law degrees, have experience investigating and resolving discrimination/harassment complaints, and have received training on discrimination, harassment, and compliance.

    Investigators are also trained to conduct effective investigations and to review information according to appropriate evidentiary standards.
  • I've had a singular experience that I think might be part of a broader pattern of problematic conduct or interactions by an individual or department. What should I do?
    If you have had a singular experience that could be part of a problematic pattern of discrimination and/or harassment, you should inform OIE. OIE can consider the report and determine whether intervention is warranted.  OIE also maintains a database of all reports of discrimination and harassment, which assists with identifying patterns and repeat offenders.
  • I've had an experience that I don't feel I need to report to anyone officially and would prefer to handle independently. What is the best way to do that? 
    How you prefer to handle an experience of discrimination and/or harassment is your decision, and there are times when an issue or concern can be resolved by direct communication. If you feel comfortable, tell the offending party to stop the problematic behavior and document the conversation in writing. If you feel that the problematic behavior may have been unintentional or uninformed (for example, based on unconscious bias or a stereotype), you can explain your concerns to the offending party and see if you can reach an understanding. Please know, however, that there is no requirement that you confront the offending party directly.

    If you change your mind about handling an experience independently, or if the problematic behavior continues even after direct communication, you are encouraged to consult OIE or a confidential resource about your options.
  • How do I file a discrimination and/or harassment complaint externally?
    In addition to or instead of filing an internal complaint, you may file a discrimination and/or harassment complaint with an external body, including a federal or state agency authorized to investigate such claims. The appropriate agency will depend on the status of the complainant and the nature of the complaint. Examples of such agencies include: the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education, the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, and the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights.

    The following resources can provide assistance to both students and employees of the University:

    EEOC Baltimore Field Office
    GH Fallon Federal Building
    31 Hopkins Plaza, Suite 1432
    Baltimore, MD 21201
    1-800-669-4000 / (TTY) 1-800-669-6820
    https://www.eeoc.gov/field/baltimore

    EEOC Washington, D.C. Field Office
    121 M Street, NE
    Fourth Floor, Suite 4NWO2F
    Washington, D.C., 20507-0100
    1-800-669-4000

    https://www.eeoc.gov/field/washington/index.cfm

    Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
    6 St. Paul Street, Suite 900
    Baltimore, MD 21202-1631
    1-800-637-6247 / (TTY) 711

    https://mccr.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx

    U.S. Department of Education
    Office for Civil Rights
    Philadelphia Office
    The Wanamaker Building
    100 Penn Square East, Suite 515
    Philadelphia, PA 19107
    215-656-8541
    OCR.Philadelphia@ed.gov
    http://ed.gov/ocr
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